American Indian Programs Take Hit Amid Govt. Shutdown - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

American Indian Programs Take Hit Amid Govt. Shutdown

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MISSOULA -

Federally-funded programs for American Indian tribes across the U.S. are taking a big financial hit amid the government shutdown.

The U.S. government provides financial assistance to these programs as part of a longstanding trust responsibility to tribal nations.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs provides assistance to nearly two million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Officials said the severity of cuts to important programs for tribes will only get worse if the shutdown continues.

Chair of Native American Studies Department at the University of Montana, David Beck, said contracts for oil and gas and forestry production are now at a standstill, putting a damper on some reservation commerce.

"They aren't going to be providing funding for needy individuals, even for foster care," Beck said.

Officials with the National Congress of American Indians said some nutrition programs that distribute food to more than 76,000 people across the county could also see financial cuts.

"Indian communities in Montana are the most impoverished communities in the state, and so when individuals need different types of support, if the federal government is shut, they're not able to get those things," Beck said.

Tribal officials said many reservations have furloughed federal employees, while some are paying for programs out-of-pocket, costing some tribes millions of dollars.

Beck added, "People who don't have income don't spend money in the community and so businesses are hurt."

Beck said it's important for people living in tribal communities to understand the political relationship between their tribe's relationship with the federal government.

"And to push federal officials to keep that line of communication open and to honor those rights."

Tribe officials said during the last government shutdown in the mid-90s, funding for federal programs was delayed for more than 50,000 American Indians.

If the shutdown is not resolved soon, tribal leaders said health, education law enforcement and infrastructure programs will also take financial hits.

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