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Shutdown deepens Indians' distress

  • October 14, 2013 - 8:43 PM

SHUTDOWN DEEPENS INDIANS’ Distress

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which provides a vast sweep of services for more than 1.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, has kept essential programs, like federal police and firefighting services, running. But it has stopped financing tribal governments and the patchwork of programs and grants that form the thin blanket of support for reservations racked by poverty and other ills.

“You’re already looking at a good number of tribes who are considered the poorest of our nation’s people,” said Jacqueline Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. “When you are dealing with cutting off food supply programs and even nominal payments to tribal members, it creates a dangerous impact immediately.”

On the reservation of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in northern Minnesota, all nonemergency medical procedures have been placed on hold, said tribal official Dave Conner. The Red Lake were supposed to have received about $1 million from the Bureau of Indian Affairs this month, but the money was not released before the shutdown, Conner said.

The tribe has budgeted enough money to keep the most critical services running until the end of the month.

Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary for Indian affairs, said the shutdown could have long-term effects on tribes and tribal members. Financial deals and economic programs have been suspended. Environmental reviews of tribal projects will be delayed. And the effect on the thousands of Bureau of Indian Affairs employees who have been furloughed is compounded because many support relatives, he said. NYT

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