Utah’s eight sovereign tribes, as well as American Indians living throughout the state, will likely begin among the first groups to see real consequences because of the ongoing federal shutdown.
Because of historic treaties with the tribes, the federal government provides many of essential services on tribal lands. They also fund a wide range of services for American Indians living outside of tribal lands.
Those services can include health care, education, and law enforcement, as well as other services ranging from road maintenance to grant programs. The U.S. Dept. of the Interior is currently providing many services through a contingency plan, but it only prepared the contingency plan for a maximum shutdown of 30 days (or 22 work days).
The actual impact will vary by individual tribes, depending on their capacity to fund the services from tribal budgets, population living on reservation lands, and even the geographic location of their tribal lands.
The longer the shutdown lasts, however, the more difficult it will become for tribal leaders and their members.
The Division of Indian Affairs has contacted all of the tribes for feedback on how they are handling the shutdown. As we gather information, we will update this post.
Navajo Nation: In a Jan. 10 release, President-elect Jonathan Nez says that essential services are still maintained. “It’s important that our people know that basic essential services under the Bureau of Indian Education and Indian Health Services will continue despite the partial government shutdown,” Nez said in the release. Navajo road crews have cleared roads typically maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, according to the Navajo Times.
Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah: In a Jan. 8 letter, Chairwoman Tamra Borchardt-Slayton said the tribe is already feeling the impacts of the shutdown. Federal offices are not staffed and cannot provide technical assistance for things such as grant applications. The tribe has not had to furlough any of its 65 employees, all of whom live in southern Utah, particularly Iron, Millard, Sevier, and Washington counties, but the shutdown could force furloughs at some point. The tribe also operates FourPoints Health Centers, and has so far maintained services.
Photo: Navajo Times picture of Burnside Road, which was one of the roads plowed by Navajo road crews during the shutdown.