Government Shutdown Hits Local Tribes - KOAM TV 7

Government Shutdown Hits Local Tribes



If the partial government shutdown continues it could soon effect more than just Americans. Native Americans nationwide have already felt the effects. 

The Wyandotte Nation and Eastern Shawnee Tribal Health Clinic sees 17 to 20 patients every day. Tribal members get services like nutrition, dental, x-ray, trauma and much more at the facility. But according to the tribe's Health Director Kelly Walker, a lot of that funding comes from the federal government. And right now the tribe is using reserve funds to keep services like this afloat during the partial government shutdown. But Walker says if those run out the tribe will have to pull back services. 

"I would expect that we would have to cut that just priority one, which would just be a life or limb threatening condition, I would also have to monitor more strictly," said Kelly Walker, Director of Health Services.

Billy Friend, the Chief of the Wyandotte Nation, says the Wyandotte Nation is lucky and that they've put away funds to help with their federally subsidized programs for at least the next three months, but that other tribes aren't as fortunate.

"We're just one of 566 tribes across the United States and the majority of those tribes probably aren't as fortunate as we are, fortunately we have a strong economic development program and so we subsidize all of our federal programs," Friend said.

The Wyandotte Nation is only one of nine tribes in Ottawa County, and it's Inter-Tribal Council hasn't been as lucky. The Council declined to give an on air interview, but in a emailed statement it's Executive Director Helen Christie said,

"The federal government shutdown has impacted (2) federally-funded programs of the Inter-Tribal Council of Northeast Oklahoma.  Both the WIC (Women, Infants & Children) Program and the Food Distribution Program (commodities) will continue to provide services to over 1,214 households and participants utilizing FY 2013 emergency contingency funds.  In order to accomplish this, we  must  furlough some staff and reduction of hours for others until  FY2014 funding is restored."

Something Walker says she's not worried about at the moment.

"Three months from now, then I'm going to panic, or next month, November 1st, we're going to have to put some serious attention and thought into it where, we can make cuts," Walker said.
According to Chief Friend, health services aren't the only thing at risk for tribes across the country. Pre-school education programs, Head Start, and even nutrition programs have also been cut from some tribes.   


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