As the US government shutdown goes into day 25, it is now the longest US shutdown ever. While many are suffering from this crisis created by Trump’s demands for his wall, Indigenous people are faring the worst. Treaty-guaranteed rights to health care, food and other services are going unmet, endangering the lives of Native people.
Indian Health Services (IHS) and the USDA Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations aren’t receiving the necessary funds to operate. Indian Health Services provides medical care to members and citizens of state and federally recognized Indigenous nations within the occupied US. While the reservation-based Indian Health Services facilities have received some funds, all urban Indian Health Services facilities have gone unfunded. This is particularly devastating, given that 70 percent of Native people are urban-based.
Kerry Hawk Lessard, a Shawnee descendant and executive director of Native American Lifelines — an Indian Health Services agency that serves Native people in the Baltimore and Boston metropolitan areas — has had to make some heartbreaking decisions. Lifelines serves its communities through the purchase of care reimbursements for medical expenses, dental, behavioral health, and cultural and community-based services. Before the shutdown began, Indian Health Services owed two months of reimbursements totaling $130,000 to Lifelines, according to Lessard. The agency had to immediately operate on its reserves and suspend services when the shutdown began. “You have this right to health care that your ancestors paid for with land and blood and genocide,” Lessard told Truthout.
Even in the best of times, urban Native people are often going without care. Since 2016, there has been a 1.26 percent drop in Indian Health Services funding. The 2018 Presidential Budget funds for Indian Health Services break down to only $1,634.24 per Native for the entire year. The situation is even more dire for urban-based Natives. They receive…