WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 – A coalition of national Native organizations, collectively serving the interests
of Tribal Nations and their citizens, joined in unison to oppose a federal government shutdown, spending
cuts for tribal programs, and to remind Congress that Native lives are not a political bargaining chip.
“Tribal Nations paid, in full, for the duties owed and enforced by the United States. We paid with our
lives, with our lands, with our resources, and with our ways of life. We paid long before political factions
sought to divide this nation, and your debt is due. We continue to serve this nation’s military in the highest numbers of any U.S. demographic, and we put program dollars to better use for our people than the United States ever has. Congress must uphold its end of the deal. Native lives are not a political
bargaining chip,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the National Congress of American Indians.
The United States has created a system where millions of Americans are uniquely reliant on federal
appropriations. Tribal law enforcement and courts will switch to emergency operating plans. Primary,
secondary, and higher education will switch to emergency operating plans. Tribal housing programs will
switch to emergency operating plans. Life-saving programs for at-risk community members will switch to
emergency operating plans. The unique history and political status of Tribal Nations and the
government-to-government relationship with the United States means that no aspect of a shutdown
happens in a vacuum for Indian Country and all Tribal Nations are affected.
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Past government shutdowns have taken the lives of Native citizens, harmed their well-being, and forced
tribal governments, tribal organizations, and individual citizens to go into debt to cover the United States’
broken promises. Without the historic enactment of advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service,
all tribal programs would be facing, yet another, threat of government shutdown. Even still, critical and
lifesaving programs will be disrupted throughout Indian Country, and Tribal Nations will pay to maintain
operations in either borrowing costs or lives lost.