From left: William Kirkland, an aide to President Donald Trump at the White House, and Brian Cladoosby, the president of the National Congress of American Indians. Photo: NCAI

Northwest tribes slam Donald Trump's budget for cuts to Indian programs

Tribes in the Pacific Northwest are pushing back on the Trump administration's fiscal year 2018 budget request, saying it fails to fulfill the federal government's trust and treaty responsibilities.

President Donald Trump wants to send the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service back to levels not seen in nearly a decade. Since the agencies are already underfunded, tribes say the cuts will be even more devastating.

"The cutbacks to tribal programs are cutting into the bone and fail to recognize very real and critically important needs," Fawn Sharp, the president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, said as the organization opened its mid-year conference in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday.

"Tribes have had to endure too many budget cuts over the years as it is but this proposal cuts even deeper," added Sharp, who also serves as president of her tribe the Quinault Nation. "It is so severe that it's absolutely illogical and unreasonable. It ignores the fact that the United States has a trust responsibility to the tribes.”

Brian Cladoosby, the president of the National Congress of American Indians, agreed. He said tribes will be looking to their allies on Capitol Hill to reject Trump's cuts.

“Congress has a moral responsibility to live up to its responsibility to tribes, and we will hold its members accountable,” said Cladoosby, who serves as chairman of the Swinomish Tribe.

Key lawmakers are already looking to protect the BIA and the IHS from the potential cuts. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, said he was disappointed with the new administration's proposal.

"I can tell you, whoever came up with this budget, I don't hold them in high esteem," Cole said during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon.

Cole sits on the House Appropriations Committee, whose members are responsible for writing the bill that funds the BIA and the IHS. They heard from nearly 80 Indian Country leaders last week as part of their work on the forthcoming legislation.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians represents 57 tribes in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, California, Montana and Idaho. The organization's mid-year meeting concludes on Friday.

Department of the Interior Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Documents:
Budget in Brief |Indian Affairs Highlights | Department Office Highlights [includes Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians]

Department of Health and Human Services Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Documents:
Budget in Brief | Indian Health Service Justification

Department of Housing and Urban Development Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Documents:
Congressional Justifications | Native American Housing Block Grants | Indian Housing Loan Guarantee Fund (Section 184)

American Indian and Alaska Native Public Witness Hearings:
May 16 AM | May 16 PM | May 17 AM | May 17 PM

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