Tribes bash proposed Trump budget cuts to Native Americans

2017-05-26 16:57
Native American women  in Post Falls, Idaho. (Jerome Pollos/Getty Images/ AFP)

Native American women in Post Falls, Idaho. (Jerome Pollos/Getty Images/ AFP)

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Portland— Dozens of Native American tribes in six Western states expressed outrage on Thursday at President Trump's proposed budget cuts to American Indian programmes, saying they would erase significant progress on child welfare and climate change and gut social services and education on reservations across the US.

Members from tribes in Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Idaho and Alaska called on Congress to restore funding to tribes during budget negotiations. The cuts ignore the treaty responsibilities to federally recognised tribes, they said, and put a stranglehold on programmes that have been chronically underfunded.

Coalter Baker, a spokesperson with the White House's Office of Management and Budget, did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

"This is the single largest attack on Indian Country that we've experienced in recent history. There is no doubt that the president has made a statement toward Indian County," said Mel Sheldon, a councilman with the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state. "It is not a good statement."

The proposed budget would slash $64m in federal Native American funding for education, $21m for law enforcement and safety, $27m for natural resources management programmes run by tribes plus $23m from human services, which includes the Indian Child Welfare Act, said Carina Miller, a councilwoman with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, in Oregon.

It would also eliminate funding for tribal work on climate change and cut block grant programmes that provide housing assistance for Native Americans, she added.

Eliminating $10m for a programme that helps tribes prepare for and deal with rapid environmental change would be particularly harmful, said Fawn Sharp, president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest have identified so-called "climate resiliency" as a top priority, said Sharp, who is also a member of the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington state.

"The reality is, is that's how we lived. The indigenous way of thinking is you're stewards of the land," said Miller.

Cutting the funding will negatively "affect the actions of projects and our ability to rehabilitate the environment", she added.

The leaders spoke at a three-day convention of Native American leaders in Portland, Oregon attended by representatives from 57 tribes.

The proposed budget was the topic of a session attended by 300 tribal members.


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