partial shutdown of the federal government is—for the moment–only indirectly felt
by many Americans. But on the nation’s Indian reservations, where federal funding
is vital for the day-to-day operation of many programs and services, the impact
In many communities, offices responsible for the health, welfare, and safety of tribal members are closed, facing closure, or working without funds, according our informal survey of tribal college administrators and tribal policy experts.
the Fort Belknap Reservation of eastern Montana, Scott Friskics, director of sponsored
programs at Aaniiih Nakoda College, said that many tribal offices are completely
shut down. “That includes the Environmental Protection Department, Water
Quality and Water Resources,” he said.
“The more I talk with folks here, the worse it sounds,” he said.
On the Lake Traverse Reservation of South Dakota, Scott Morgan, director of institutional research and programs at Sisseton Wahpeton College, also reported the imminent closure of tribal programs that depend on federal funds. “If it continues much longer, more of the tribal agencies are going to have serious funding issues and will start shutting down,” he said.
The need to maintain
infrastructure and essential services means that many tribal employees are working
without pay. “On the Turtle Mountain Reservation of North Dakota, “many BIA and
other federal employees are still working because in the winter it does not
take long for pipes to freeze, roads to close, vehicles to break down,”
reported Carty Monette, retired president of Turtle Mountain Community College
and a senior associate at the Tribal Nations Research Group.
Medical care is a growing
concern. Tribal clinics operating under contract with the Indian Health Service
depend on federal funds to keep doors open and staff paid. However, in a letter
to tribal leaders, the IHS stated that, without an appropriation, it cannot pay tribes or tribal organizations
contracting under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.
“We acknowledge that this
circumstance may result in insufficient funds to carry out the terms of the
agreement and that the program may cease to operate,” the letter continued.
On the Turtle Mountain
Reservation, Monette reported that ambulance and emergency services are still
provided by IHS staff, who are working without paychecks. “But who knows how
long that will last,” he said. “It costs money beyond salaries to keep
the IHS operating.”
The 183 schools run or funded by
the Bureau of Indian Education are among the least affected, largely because
they are forward funded. To keep other programs operating, tribes are making
use of carryover or unspent funds, when available. “But
like the federal agencies, this too will soon run out,” Monette said.
banks may make interim loans to some entities but bank cooperation is also
uncertain. The loans that may be made will for sure be at a huge interest
rate,” Monette said.
Here, at last, is something
that tribal leaders and President have in common: unpaid bills and empty
offices. According the New
York Times, the White House has stopped paying its water bill much of its
staff are gone.