Although Wyoming is well-known for its stunning scenery and cowboy culture, it also has a darker side. Several studies and reports have shown that Riverton has become a hub for racially sensitive issues.
Unraveling Riverton s History of Racism
With 11,000 residents, Riverton is located on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The town was founded in 1906 when white settlers claimed territory that the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes had agreed was theirs by contract. There were further legal challenges pertaining to jurisdiction, taxes, and rights to land and water.
Given that Native Americans make up roughly 10% of the community, hate crimes and racial prejudice against them have long been a part of Riverton’s tumultuous past. Among the well-known instances are:
- In 2015, racial slurs accompanied an attack where two white men shot at a group of Native American men with a BB gun.
- In 2014, a white man with a history of racist comments killed a Northern Arapaho man in a detox center.
- In 2010, three white men subjected a Native American man to a brutal beating and branding with a swastika in a park.
- In 1988, a white man, despite confessing to the crime, was acquitted by an all-white jury for stabbing a Native American man to death in a bar.
Riverton s Infamous Racist Reputation
Due to its past, Riverton has a bad image with human rights activists, minorities, and Native Americans. It has been dubbed the most racist city in Wyoming by a number of sources:
- Abodo, an apartment search website, ranked Riverton first in Wyoming and 13th in the nation for the highest frequency of racist tweets.
- Data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz linked Riverton to the Appalachian region, which had the highest concentration of racist searches in the nation.
- RoadSnacks, an online publication, named Riverton the most dangerous, poorest, and least diverse city in Wyoming based on crime, education, income, and diversity data.
Responding to Racism in Riverton
Although Riverton’s officials and inhabitants have downplayed and denied racism, there have been initiatives to address the issue that have emerged:
- In 2016, the Riverton City Council passed a resolution denouncing racism and promoting harmony, supported by the Wind River Native Advocacy Center.
- In 2017, Riverton High School students organized a walkout to protest racism and bullying, demanding cultural awareness and sensitivity training.
- In 2018, the Riverton Community Food Bank hosted a multicultural potluck to celebrate diversity, featuring food, music, and stories from various ethnic and religious groups.
The Uncertain Path Forward for Riverton
Regarding racism, Riverton’s future is still unclear because of pending legal and political issues, shifting economic and demographic trends, and possible social and cultural movements. Riverton has the opportunity to change its perception even if it has been called the most racist city in Wyoming. The unanswered question is whether it will take advantage of this chance for reform.
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