By Jeff Rebitski, Staff Writer
The Riverton Peace Mission sponsored a candlelight vigil in memory of Andy Antelope, who was killed in Riverton three years ago. His death, a controversial pivot point for many, is also a reminder that there is a long way to go to erase the pain of his and so many other deaths and disappearances of native Arapaho and Shoshone people.
The vigil was attended by approximately thirty five people from all backgrounds and walks of life, including Mayor Richard Gard and Chief Eric Murphy and Sargeant Randy Foos of the Riverton Police Department.
The cooler weather did little to cool the enthusiasm of those who gathered to remember and promote “Never Again in Riverton,” the catch phrase of the night. It is hoped by the organizers that this kind of incident will never again happen on the streets of our fair city or anywhere on the reservation. It is not just white on native violence, it is natives killing natives and blacks killing blacks. There is so much killing in our country today and it needs to stop. said Andy Antelopes Grandson as he spoke in quiet reverence of a grandfather he never was able to meet. His words were heard by all and sat heavy in the hearts of those standing outside city hall in Riverton. Such a profound statement from a young man who has obviously experienced violence and bigotry in his life.
The pounding of the ceremonial drum echoed off the passing traffic on Federal Blvd. as the sun set on a beautiful day. The tribal songs, though not understood by most, still inspired a solemn introspective of what has happened in this community. The divide between people who have lived within sight of each other for generations, yet are somehow separated by memories and shared animosity passed down from generation to generation.
Nicole Wagon spoke of the “Never Again in Riverton” motto and shared why the petition was important.”It is about the future and erasing institutional racism within the city of Riverton.”
Andy Antelope’s sister, Lavana Bell, spoke on behalf of the family stating “We will never heal from this tragedy, there is no justice when police are still shooting people on the streets of Riverton.”
Andy Antelope was shot by a Riverton Police Officer in front of Walmart on September 20, 2019. The subsequent investigation by RPD, FCSO, and BIA found that Antelope had a knife and was acting erratically, possibly due to being intoxicated, finally lunging at the police with the knife. The Riverton Peace Mission maintains that his death was not necessary and attributes a lack of training in trauma and de-escalation techniques to Antelopes death.