Sequester & Cuts to Indian Treaty Programs
As Murray discussed in his blog post about Sequester & Indian Education Cuts, the recent government sequester is affecting education for Native Americans in drastic ways. But, cuts to the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) aren’t the only negative impact that the sequester is having on Indian country.
Along with the BIE, Indian Health Service (IHS) is facing a cut of $220 million or 5% of its federal funding, according to the New York Times. That means 3,000 less inpatient admissions and 804,000 less outpatient visits provided by IHS hospitals and clinics, the White House reports. Considering the remoteness of the reservations that National Relief Charities serves, this very well could be a matter of life and death for Native Americans reliant on the already underfunded IHS.
What is most demoralizing about the cuts to federal Native American programs is that they are going to services that are guaranteed by treaty to Native Americans. As mentioned earlier, federal programs for Native Americans like the BIE and IHS are already underfunded and will decline even further with the sequester. One likely outcome is increased difficulty in retaining quality educators, health care providers, and social service workers. Another more obvious outcome is a decrease in the number of people they can serve – many of whom already live below poverty level.
The New York Times poignantly documented that federal health and safety-net programs like Social Security, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to name a few, are protected from sequestration. This is good for everyone assisted by these programs. On the other hand, despite treaty obligations for Indian healthcare that pre-date any of these social programs, IHS is not being protected from sequester cuts.
The BIE and IHS are not all of the sequester cuts in Indian country either. In a state such as South Dakota, where there are 9 federal Indian reservations and 9% of the entire population is Native, the White House reported that, this year alone, South Dakota:
- Would lose approximately $214,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.
- Will lose about $216,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 8,060 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
- Will lose about $250,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in about 1000 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs.
- Could lose up to $16,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 100 fewer victims being helped.
Similarly, New Mexico has 22 federal Indian reservations and 10% Native population. Other states also have high populations of American Indians coupled with high poverty rates. In states such as these, the sequester cuts will undoubtedly impact individual Native Americans and families, in addition to federal Native American programs.
My goal here is not to paint Native Americans as helpless people totally dependent on federal support for survival. It is to point out that the sequester in Indian country is only one more failure in a legacy of ongoing foundering by the federal government to honor the various treaties made with diverse tribes across this land. Like Social Security and Medicaid, federal Native American services should be exempt from sequestration. Ultimately, the American Indian people continue to suffer for maintaining their ends of the treaty bargains.