Native American Tribes Fear Potential Devastating Effects of Lengthier Government Shutdown

The partial government shutdown is causing concern among leaders of Native American Tribes nationwide.

It’s already costing them.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians says the federal government shutdown has cost them around six figures a day, and if it lasts for much longer it could have devastating effects on their local health center.

“Currently the cost per-day is about $100,000, we have reserves to be able to cover that our council has appropriated. We’ve probably eaten about half of our reserves and support dollars since the shutdown happened,” Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians Chairman Aaron Payment, said.

The shutdown is not devastating yet, but Mr. Payment says it could be soon.

“We can go back to recent time to 2013 when the shutdown cost my tribe about $1 million. We lost several medical staff as a result because we didn’t understand that their employment would be affected by a government shutdown,” Payment, explained.

And the tribe fears it could happen again in 2019.

“If an interruption of our draw down happens on the 15th of January, we have to think very seriously about minimizing operations in order to make sure that we don’t spend money we don’t have,” Payment, said.

“We’ll have to consider furloughs and layoffs and interruption of services and moving our operations to bare minimum in order to keep our doors open,” he added.

Their health center sees around 11,000 patients per year, and helps tribal members with medical, dental and mental health problems.

Problems that disproportionately affect the Native American community, according to a recent report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

“The federal government distributes funds to tribes based on the treaties and trust responsibilities that we prepaid for. We are reliant on the federal dollars that we prepaid, to provide services for our people,” Payment, added.