Dr. Lowell Styler treated Ashley Gravelle for a shoulder injury at the Sault Tribe Health and Human Services in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., on Monday. If the shutdown continues, health services may be pared back. Credit Credit Brittany Greeson for The New York Times

NYT: Shutdown Leaves Food, Medicine and Pay in Doubt in Indian Country


SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — For one tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the government shutdown comes with a price tag: about $100,000, every day, of federal money that does not arrive to keep health clinics staffed, food pantry shelves full and employees paid.

The tribe is using its own funds to cover the shortfalls for now. But if the standoff in Washington continues much longer, that stopgap money will be depleted. Later this month, workers could be furloughed and health services could be pared back. “Everything,” said Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, “is on the table.”

For many Americans who are not federal workers or contractors, a shutdown is a minor inconvenience. A trip to a national park may be canceled. A call to a government office may go unanswered. But for Native American tribes, which rely heavily on federal money to operate, a shutdown can cripple their most basic functions.

All across Indian Country, the federal shutdown slices deep. Generations ago, tribes negotiated treaties with the United States government guaranteeing funds for services like health care and education in exchange for huge swaths of territory.

“The federal government owes us this: We prepaid with millions of acres of land,” said Mr. Payment, who also criticized the shutdown on Monday from the stage at his tribe’s New Year’s powwow. “We don’t have the right to take back that land, so we expect the federal government to fulfill its treaty and trust responsibility.”

On the Navajo Nation, a mostly rural reservation of red rock canyon that spans parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, the government shutdown has already been difficult, said Russell Begaye, the Navajo Nation’s president.

A blanket of snow has covered the region, but roads are unplowed because federal maintenance has stopped. Many people are now trapped in their homes, unable to make the 20- or 50-mile journey to buy water, groceries and medicine, said Mr. Begaye.

Read More from the NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/01/us/native-american-government-shutdown.html

The Navajo Post Newspaper is a newspaper that covers the largest Native American tribe in the U.S. the Navajo Nation.