The chairman of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Jeromy Sullivan, has urged President Donald Trump and policymakers to find a resolution to the government shutdown amidst “a disproportionately negative impact on Indian tribes.”
Sullivan said the shutdown has significantly impacted the tribe’s basic needs, resulting in food shortages, lack of access to medical care and missing paychecks to many tribal members. The chairman added that the lack of funds coming into the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe has also begun to put tension on an already strained tribal budget.
Tribal members hoping to become homeowners have become stalled as well, with the federally—operated Bureau of Indian Affairs unable to approve applications through the Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program, the chairman explained in his letter.
Kara Horton-Wright is the tribe’s administrative director of tribal services, she said her immediate concern was for tribal member’s nutritional security.
“Our most immediate concern is for how the shutdown will impact our tribal members that are below poverty level and receive [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits,” she said. “That’s funded — I believe through March.”
As for medical services, Horton-Wright said the tribe currently has an Indian Health Services doctor on staff — who is deemed essential personnel — but if the shutdown continues long term, medical services could be hindered.
“We could be losing out on some contract health dollars to refer our tribal members out for specialty care,” Horton-Wright said. “We would have to go on a priority basis, IHS has a definition for it, it’s called ‘life and limb.’”
Life and limb, the director explained, refers to the means by which patients would be prioritized, giving first priority to patients in the greatest danger of losing life or limb.
While Sullivan’s letter decried the shutdown for its effects on tribes across the country, Horton-Wright said the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Council had yet to announce a position on the matter of a border wall — the main point of contention between the president and policymakers, which prompted the shutdown.
By Horton-Wright’s estimation, the tribe will begin to seriously feel the effects of the shutdown if a resolution is not made by March.
“We would like it to end so we can get on with doing our jobs,” the director added.
—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org