Herb Augustine, Forrest Red Elk and Francis Sherwood from the Eagle Spirit Dancers and Singers group perform a men’s traditional dance Wednesday at the University of Wyoming, following the WY-Wind River: Economic Development & Entrepreneurship Symposium. As part of the symposium, UW leaders discussed $450K that will be given in grant funding on the reservation.

The University of Wyoming will provide $450,000 in grant funding over the next five years to help spur entrepreneurship and other programs on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The new grant funding was discussed Wednesday as part of a symposium on campus that included speeches from Gov. Mark Gordon, President Laurie Nichols and a performance of by the Eagle Spirit Dancers.

That funding will be provided through UW’s EPSCoR program, which received a $20 million grant in 2017 from the National Science Foundation to study microbes across the state.

Some of the funding from that grant, the largest in the university’s history, will now be provided to the Wind River Native American Advocacy Center to distribute through “micro-grants” and an entrepreneurship competition on the reservation.

Brent Ewers, director of UW’s EPSCoR program, told the Laramie Boomerang the new grant funding system aims to give the tribes more control over how UW aids the reservation.

“One of the things we have learned very painfully in past history is that often researchers came to the two tribes and said, ‘We know what’s best, here’s the research we’re going to do’,” Ewers said. “We’re trying to change that.”

He said $400,000 is planned to be given out as micro-grants over the next five years.

These grants might be used for community education programs, as well as providing tribal groups access to research students at UW.

Much of the structure for how the grant funding will be used, Ewers said, remains “intentionally vague.” The tribes are supposed to be directing their use, not UW.

“We want them to tell us the most effective way to use this money,” he said.

Ewers said he’s hoping the Wind River Native Advocacy Center will put out a request for proposals for those micro-grants this summer.

Tarissa Spoonhunter of Central Wyoming College, UW’s James Trosper and the Wind River Native Advocacy Center’s leadership will decide select recipients of the grants.

UW will also provide $25,000 to the Wind River Native Advocacy center this year and another $25,000 next year for two entrepreneurship competitions on the reservation.

Ewers said those competitions will be largely modeled after the Fisher Innovation Launchpad, a competition organized by the Wyoming Technology Business Center “to encourage and stimulate Wyoming students to propose entrepreneurial and technology-based businesses that they are interested in.”

Ewers said the $25,000 would likely be distributed among multiple awardees, though Ewers said he’s “trying make sure we respect how the tribes would like to run the competition.”

Gordon and Nichols both gave speeches at the meeting, which included a keynote address by Gary Davis, the executive director of the Native American Financial Services Association.

Davis is also a member of the Forbes Finance Council and is the publisher of Native Business Magazine.

The Laramie Boomerang will have more coverage in the coming days of Wednesday’s “WY Wind River: Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium,” which included conversations on ways to improve the business climate on the reservation.

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