October 30, 2014

Okla. tribes weather U.S. shutdown

TULSA, Okla. – Despite more than 2,800 furloughs across the country in the Bureau of Indian Affairs alone, many Oklahoma tribes are weathering the federal shutdown with minimal changes, at least for the short term.

“Like many other programs that are funded by the federal government, Citizen Potawatomi Nation programs have been affected by the government shutdown,” Citizen Potawatomi Nation vice chairwoman Linda Capps said. “However, we are not suspending any of our programs at this time. Careful planning and the ability to remain flexible have allowed us to continue business as usual for the short term. We will continue to evaluate our programs and our funding for as long as necessary.”

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation leadership is taking a similar approach. The Okmulgee  based tribe is not altering or adjusting any of its programs for now, but will re-evaluate its position if the shutdown lasts more than 30 days.

“The planning process for our budgets has allowed us to be able to operate in a timely manner,” Chief George Tiger said. “I would encourage Congress to exercise bipartisan cooperation to pass the federal budget, which affects the entire nation.”

Spokesmen for the Wyandotte Nation and Kiowa Tribe confirmed via email that as of Friday, programs were continuing as normal.

With education programs already receiving forward funding for 2014, Sequoyah School in Tahlequah, Riverside Indian School near Anadarko, and other Bureau of Indian Education schools across the state will remain open during the shutdown.

Meanwhile, two of eastern Oklahoma’s largest tribes, the Cherokee Nation and Osage Nation, have already had programs impacted by the Congressional gridlock.

Thanks to the shutdown, applications for Native American Section 184 home loans are not being processed until further notice. Administered nationally by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the move slows down operations for the Cherokee Nation, which has a mortgage assistance program among its offerings for tribal citizens.

“The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is disheartened that Congress could not reach an agreement to prevent the federal government from shutting down,” program director Gary Cooper said. “The HACN hopes the shutdown is brief and tribal citizens in the Native American Section 184 Loans process are minimally impacted. However, housing programs funded and operated by the Cherokee Nation are business as usual and will continue to serve our citizens because of the sound financial management practices at both the Cherokee Nation and HACN.”

The tribe may also have to adjust its Women, Infants and Children program if the shutdown continues beyond Friday. One of nine Oklahoma tribes to administer the federal grant-funded service, Cherokee Nation WIC clinics serve more than 7,400 low-income pregnant, postpartum and nursing women, children younger than age 5 and infants every month by providing breastfeeding education and support, nutrition education, iron-fortified formula for infants who are not exclusively breastfeeding and grocery store vouchers for nutritious foods, such as eggs, cheese, peanut butter and vegetable juice.

The Osage Nation has already had to scale back the services available through its WIC program due to the shutdown. Although the clinics are still open, no food vouchers are being distributed for the time being and no new infants will be eligible to receive formula through Osage Nation WIC until federal funds are restored. Each month, the program serves an average of 700 infants – both Native and non-Native – across Osage County and in neighboring Bartlesville, including about 30 new participants.

To date, WIC is the only Osage Nation program that has been directly impacted by the shutdown. However, tribal officials have said that if the shutdown lasts more than 30 days, other services, including Head Start and the Osage Nation Senior Services Program, may see cuts.

 


A sign at Ellis Island, which features the Statue of Liberty, in New York City tells visitors that the island is closed because of a government shutdown.
COURTESY PHOTO
 

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