October 01, 2013

Government shutdown hits Indian tribes

Government Shutdown Frustrates Tribal Leaders

By Rob Capriccioso“What is just partisan game playing in Washington, D.C. is a battle for survival in Indian country where many of us barely subsist,” said Edward Thomas, president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes. “Many of our 28,000 tribal citizens live at the very edge of survival and depend upon our tribe’s ability, with federal funding, to provide critical human services.

“Any interruption in federal funding, especially for a self-governance tribe like ours without gaming or other substantial economic development, means we must borrow money–from an expensive line of credit we cannot afford–to meet our payroll obligations to child welfare workers, to job trainers, to housing workers, and to natural resource subsistence protection,” Thomas said.
Shutdown hits vulnerable Indian tribes as basics such as foster care, nutrition threatened

By Associated PressFor the 13,000 members of southeast Montana’s Crow Tribe, the budget impasse had immediate and far-reaching effects: Tribal leaders furloughed more than 300 workers Wednesday, citing the shutdown and earlier federal budget cuts.

As a result, tribal programs including home health care for the elderly and disabled, bus service for rural areas, and a major irrigation project were suspended indefinitely.

“It’s going to get hard,” said Shar Simpson, who leads the Crow’s home health care program. “We’re already taking calls from people saying, ‘Who’s going to take care of my mom? Who’s going to take care of my dad?’”
Indian Country hit hard by government shutdown

By Kevin Taylor and Jenni MonetThe federal government plays a critical role for the 1.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the 566 federally-recognized tribes, providing key services that include health care, schools, social programs and law enforcement protection, all supported by its long-standing treaty obligations made with Native Americans.

Some essential services will continue during the shutdown, such as law enforcement and firefighting, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And the 176 Indian Health Service hospitals and clinics will stay open.

But the shutdown means freezes have already been placed on nutrition programs, foster care payments, financial assistance for the poor and anti-elder abuse programs. Some tribes risk losing all their income in timber operations if federal employees aren't there. Vital contracts and grants will be stalled.
NCAI urges Congress to reach budget deal

By Peter L. MorrisThe failure to come to a budget agreement threatens the capacity of tribal governments to deliver basic governmental services to their citizens. The federal government has made treaty commitments to our people, and in return we ceded the vast lands that make up the United States. The immediate shutdown crisis poses very real threats to tribal governments and denies health, nutrition, and other basic services to the most vulnerable tribal citizens.

Even if the shutdown is resolved soon, a greater crisis remains–both the House and Senate versions of the Continuing Resolution sustained the devastating FY 2013 sequestration cuts. The sequester has deeply affected tribal programs: the Indian Health Service, Indian education funding streams, law enforcement, infrastructure programs such as housing and road maintenance, Head Start, and others. These funding commitments serve some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and are part of the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribal nations.
The survival of the Indian people is taking a new turn

By Tim GiagoIt is quite easy for members of Congress to sit back on their fat haunches and not give a hoot for the health problems of the rest of Americans. After all, they have one of the best health care policies to be found in this country. In this land called America that touts itself as an example of democracy and fair play, there are more than 40 million Americans without health insurance who fall through the cracks.

But this isn’t just happening on the local scene. There are thousands of Americans, white, black, Hispanic, Native American, etc., who will go hungry when the budget cuts on food stamps take place. It makes us wonder what in the world is happening to this country. It is well documented that the rich are growing richer while the poor are growing poorer, and that seems to be the new norm in this country.
Why Race Matters in the Government Shutdown

By Imara JonesAs the parts of the government affected by the shutdown disproportionately impact economic opportunity programs for the working poor, historically marginalized communities are likely to the feel the effects of a shutdown acutely as time goes on.

What’s particularly distressing about the shuttering of the government is that it comes at a time when unemployment remains in the double digits for blacks and Latinos. As the Center for American Progress points out, federal, state and local governments since 2008 have eliminated 750,000 public sector jobs. Given unionization and strong anti-discriminatory hiring practices, people of color are more likely to have jobs in the public sector. This is particularly true for African-Americans, and it’s why joblessness remains so stubborn in communities of color.
Comment:  A quote from lawyer Chris Stearns sums up a key issue:Perhaps it might be fair, if during a shutdown, Indian tribes got to take back our lands in lieu of payments.Many government benefits to tribes are the results of treaties. Which are supposedly the supreme law of the land.

A treaty should trump any law or lack of law that cuts funding. Treaty benefits should be immune to political wrangling.

Stearns may be joking, but his point is correct. If the US government doesn't fulfill its obligations to tribes, it should give back their land. No payments, no land.

For more on the subject, see Republicans = Terrorists and Any Excuse to Hate Obama.

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