A Wyoming County Challenges the Wind River Indians With Help From High-Profile Coloradans

December 2 2010, 2:00 PM

Earlier this month, the Gillette News-Record wrote about a group of American Indian plaintiffs in Fremont County, Wyoming, who had won a long-disputed federal voting rights case, which found that at-large elections for county commissioners in Wyoming violate the Voting Rights Act by diluting tribal votes. Despite the ruling, local officials aren't backing down. And after racking up a hefty tab for taxpayers, they've now obtained free, high-powered legal help from the Lakewood-based Mountain States Legal Foundation, "bankrolled in part by powerful, conservative Western families," writes The Associated Press, including the Coors brewing family and Denver billionaire Philip F. Anschutz. Mountain States is seeking to overturn the ruling, leading to accusations that the firm is anti-American Indian.

The new system, based on district voting, would effectively guarantee the election of a Native American commissioner in Fremont County, home to the Wind River Indian Reservation. Wyoming oilman Diemer True, a former Mountain States director and former Republican National Committee member, says the firm is only "very concerned about equal rights, not minority rights." However, Patricia Bergie of the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Council, a plaintiff, says Mountain States wants "to make sure that our voice isn't heard."