Most Americans barely notice the shutdown. Some may have to alter plans to visit museums or national parks, but that is a minor adjustment easily made. But if the shutdown continues much longer every aspect of tribal life could be impacted from healthcare, to road maintenance, to access to food and to tribal justice systems, all are threatened with shutdowns and furloughs.
Thursday, Jan. 3, 6pm-8pm at 1420 Cerrillos, The Center for Progress & Justice. Retake Our Democracy Roundhouse Advocacy Team Organizing & Training Meeting. It is crunch time, 12 days to the opening of the Legislative Session. Orientation for the new participants that have been recruited will be from 6-6:30 followed by more training and considerable time for small group planning focused on the role you want to play in our work. Please RSVP by writing to email@example.com. And please, please, please, ask 2-3 friends to join you. It is time to flex our muscles and we need your help in that effort. At this meeting we must formulate plans for the first few days of the session. We will meet again on January 17, 6pm, 1420 Cerrillos.
For other opportunities to get involved, click to visit our Actions & Events page. It includes links to actions and opportunities in Santa Fe and in many other communities throughout the state. We will begin including more and more information about actions and events statewide.
We’ve Stolen Their Land; We’ve Broken Our Treaties; Now Trump’s Wall-Driven Shutdown Undermine Tribal Life Across the Nation
On the Navajo Nation, a reservation that spans New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, the government shutdown has already been difficult. From the NY Times: “A blanket of snow has covered the region, but roads are unplowed because federal maintenance has stopped. Many people are now trapped in their homes, unable to make the 20- or 50-mile journey to buy water, groceries and medicine, said Russell Begaye, the Navajo Nation’s president.”
But, as reported in the NY Times, this is just a small part of the havoc wreaked upon tribes across the country. “The Interior Department’s Indian Affairs Bureau provides basic services to about 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, often by funneling funds to the tribes to administer the services themselves or by employing federal workers to run the programs. This means that services from law enforcement to tribal courts, disaster relief and road maintenance are often completed by tribal employees whose salaries rely on federal funding — or by federal workers, some of whom are tribal citizens. And because the Federal shutdown is in place, these funds are frozen, leaving tribes with few options and with healthcare, road services, police services, and access to food imperiled. For example the Chippewa tribe in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is covering costs with its own money to the tune of $100,000 a day, but if the shutdown continues, soon health personnel will have to be furloughed and services curtailed.”
“The federal government owes us this: We prepaid with millions of acres of land,” said Mr. Payment, Chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, who also criticized the shutdown on Monday from the stage at his tribe’s New Year’s powwow. “We don’t have the right to take back that land, so we expect the federal government to fulfill its treaty and trust responsibility.”
The loss of services not only impacts those who depend upon tribal health services, road maintenance and countless other services funded with Federal dollars, many tribal employees can support families of 10-12 relatives and if the furloughs come, there are precious few resources to sustain families, to keep the heat on, to keep the water flowing. And Russell Begaye noted that the predatory lenders are circling, ready to prey upon desperate furloughed employees. “It just kind of snowballs into our people doing things that they know that they should not do and further financially obligating themselves,” Mr. Begaye said. “They have to keep their heater going and they have to keep their water on.”
According to the NY TImes: “The shutdown also curtailed a Department of Agriculture food program that helped feed about 90,000 Native American people in fiscal year 2017. Chairman Joseph Rupnick of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, headquartered in northeast Kansas, said he feared the impact that this would have on his members. “Those stores will be depleted,” Mr. Rupnick said of the tribe’s food distribution center. “When they’re going through a shutdown, they’re thinking: ‘I need five billion for a wall. I need dollars for this or that.’ The bottom line is it always impacts the neediest people in the country.”
The challenge for the any even remotely responsible legislators in Congress is that they are dealing with a President who has only an increasingly tenuous grip on reality. At various times, he has claimed that Mexico is paying for the wall through the revised NAFTA agreement, but the agreement has not been passed by Congress and trade experts are skeptical of any mechanism that could be used to pay for the wall. At various times Trump has justified the wall by claiming it is needed for national security reasons citing our having 35M undocumented immigrants in the country, over three times the actual number. And the truth is that in many parts of the country, business is reeling for the lack of immigrants needed to fill critical job needs. His requisition of troops to the border to protect us from the “invasion” of a mere few thousand refugees, flies in the face of the facts that indicate that the US is accepting a fraction of our historic levels of immigrants and refugees. This is a crises entirely created by one man and a spineless GOP. But while the GOP is used to his lies and dissembling, of late his decision-making has become as erratic as his public comments: initiating an unprovoked tariff war, signaling he was willing to compromise on the shutdown one day and then rejecting a compromise the next; pulling troops from Syria without consultation, threatening to close the southern border entirely (huh?) and tweeting threats to anyone who dares to question his behavior.
There is a common refrain in the past three posts: US national leadership that can’t govern, can’t protect the interests of the most vulnerable populations, willfully defies science and the rest of the world in a thirst for dollars dripping with oil, combined with an inability to grasp the moment, to visualize the possibilities that could put America back to work, create a sustainable future, address the needs and aspirations of working families, students and disenfranchised populations and reconstruct alliances with historic allies. There is an opening for a grassroots response insisting on justice and sanity and hopefully this time it will form around an issue-based movement, not a charismatic leader. And as past posts have described, we have work to do at the national level if the Democratic Party is to be the standard bearer for that movement as it is seeking to marginalize the few newly elected leaders with vision and courage.
In the meantime while Trump continues to insist on $5.6 billion to build a pointless wall, tribes across the country suffer. The NY Times article cites one example after another of tribes throughout the Nation suffering while Rome burns and Trump fiddles. To read the full NY Times report, click here.
At least in NM, we have some key political conditions in place and a chance to address the needs of our most vulnerable people and communities. That starts in less than two weeks. Please consider joining us today at 6pm (details at the top of the post). Maybe if we take advantage of the political opportunity at hand, we can ignite a national recognition of what is possible if you start with justice as your guiding light. That light doesn’t even appear visible in Washington.
Paul & Roxanne
P.S. A closing thought. When researching this post, I reviewed a dozen articles. Most every one focused on tourist inconvenience in having National museums closed and National Parks a mess from trash left behind and uncollected. A few spoke of workers who were inconvenienced by the shutdown, but who would recoup lost wages once the shutdown is resolved. The only reference to the plight of Native tribes was found in the NY Times article cited above. We have a lot of work to do when the suffering of almost 2 million of us barely warrants a paragraph while the media focuses on disappointed tourists who must adjust their travel plans.