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Indigenous communities in U.S. hit hard during shutdown

While the number of federal employees and contract workers impacted by the federal government’s partial shutdown is fully covered by the mainstream media, the plight of our Native American tribes has been totally ignored.

In a sobering and detailed report from the New York Times, the Chippewa in Michigan are losing $100,000 a day to fund crucial health care programs, food pantries, and employees’ salaries.

Roads in the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah are covered in snow and remain unplowed because federal maintenance has been suspended. This situation has trapped many people in their freezing homes. At the Bois Forte Indian Reservation in Minnesota, police officers are being forced to work without pay until the shutdown is over, reports PBS Newshour.

Medical crisis in the making
The effects of the shutdown are being felt far and wide as federal money has now dried up, leaving people in need of medical care and medical referrals put on hold until things get better. The U.S. Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) delivers health care to about 2.2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Native American tribes rely heavily on funding guaranteed by treaties with the U.S., acts of Congress and other agreements for public safety, social services, education and health care for their members. With the shutdown now going into its fourth week, some of these programs are about to collapse.

About 9,000 Indian Health Service employees (60 percent of the total) are working without a paycheck, while another 35 percent are working without funding, according to the Health and Human Services department’s shutdown plan. And this includes direct patient care by staff members.

It should be noted that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are unaffected by the partial government shutdown. Leaders of a number of Native American organizations wrote to Congress on Thursday, describing the effects of the shutdown on their communities.

“The long-term effects of this shutdown will ripple throughout our communities for months or even years following the reopening of the government,” read the letter released by the National Congress of American Indians.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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