Native Americans Adversely Affected by Shutdown
The government shutdown is having a devastating impact on hundreds of thousands of federal workers. However, perhaps no constituency is feeling the immediate effects of the shutdown more than Indian Country. The Department of the Interior has furloughed 2,662 of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 4,490 employees due to the shutdown, hitting basic services on reservations. Medical, educational, and even some food and housing assistance funding is on hold, forcing some tribes to pay out-of-pocket to keep their members safe and healthy. The Chippewa Indians in Michigan told The New York Times that it is losing about $100,000 daily in federal money it would receive to staff health clinics, keep food pantries full and open, and pay its employees. Aaron Payment, the Chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said the federal government is failing to comply with treaties it signed. "The federal government owes us this: We prepaid with millions of acres of land ... We don’t have the right to take back that land, so we expect the federal government to fulfill its treaty and trust responsibility." Indian Country has faced these challenges during previous shutdowns and while some tribes have contingency plans in place, many don’t have the resources to keep all the vital services cut by the shutdown funded for an extended period of time. Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, introduced legislation on December 20th that would have maintained funding for the Indian Health Service in case of a shutdown, though his bill didn’t get a vote. “This is a true federal obligation to treaties to Native Americans,” said Mullin. “This is different than really any other government agency.” A spokesman for the Interior Department told the NYT that so many people were out of the office for the holiday, or furloughed, that he had no information about the way the shutdown was playing out in Indian Country. More here.