Montana Public Radio

Government Shutdown Leads To Program Cuts For Native Americans

Jan 15, 2019

Food and medication distribution and substance abuse counseling programs for Native Americans are being put on hold due to the federal government shutdown, panelists told members of the U.S. House Tuesday.

Aaron Payment, a board member of the National Congress of American Indians, testified before Democratic members of the House at the D.C. hearing.

"This is a crisis like we’ve never seen," said Payment.

In Montana, the Washington Post reports 800 Indian Health Service workers are either furloughed or working without pay. On Friday Montana Representative Greg Gianforte supported a House bill to specifically fund IHS during the shutdown, but that bill remains in committee.

The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council released a statement Tuesday saying they have taken necessary measures to cut back spending and that a food distribution program was able to secure some food donations for furloughed federal employees and IHS employees working without pay.

According to the statement, the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Blackfeet Reservation is down to one snow plow, one operator and one on-call operator to cover all of the BIA routes on the Reservation.

Last year a state of emergency was declared following severe winter storms on the Blackfeet Reservation. There is concern that if similar storms take place during the shutdown, the impact would be intensified by the limited funding for snow removal and road maintenance services.