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The annual tribal conference gave Indian leaders a chance to lay out what they want from Washington in the coming year. An end to sequestration tops the list, but Diver is not optimistic.
“That would take a cooperative House and Senate, and we have not seen that with other issues,” she said.
The tribes contend that the government has perennially underfunded tribal programs and failed to meet treaty obligations to Indians. Paired with the sequestration, the tribal leaders now feel they’re being shortchanged on multiple fronts.
“The current and future sequestration cuts amount to unpaid bills in Indian Country which hurt the people who need these services the most, the poorest of the poor throughout tribal communities,” said Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community of Washington state.
When Benjamin and 11 other tribal leaders met with Obama and top aides in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, the conversation on economic development shifted to economic difficulties.
“We are basically the first to be cut and cut again,” Benjamin said.
During her testimony, Driver ticked off accomplishments, such as advances in preventive health care and affordable housing, that could be rolled back if the funding cuts continue.
“You’re taking away our ability to rise up and help support our communities,” she said.
Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau. Twitter: @C_C_Mitchell