‘This thing has more cuts than the meat-processing department at Wal-Mart.’
Jason Salsman/Multimedia Producer
Prez with famous hair proposing Super Cuts to Indian Country
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Are you a Native American that was offended by President Donald Trump’s use of the term “Pocahontas” when referring to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s continued claims of Native ancestry?
Perhaps you are a descendant of one of the tribes forcibly removed from the southeast on the Trail of Tears and the president’s admitted admiration for Andrew Jackson, who ordered said removal, sticks in your craw just a bit.
Well… does 45 have a “hold my beer” moment for you folks.
On Feb. 12, the Trump Administration released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 and if you don’t like cuts to Indian Country then avert your eyes.
This thing has more cuts than the meat-processing department at Wal-Mart.
The list of programs that are slated in the proposed plan for outright elimination have served as the backbone of tribal governments’ services to their respective citizenry for years and years.
The Indian Community Development Block Grant under HUD? Gone. The Department of Labor’s Indian and Native American Program? It’s history. The tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program? Toast.
I wonder how most Oklahoma lawmakers, teachers and parents that understand the education-funding crisis that is facing our state will react to the elimination of the Johnson O’ Malley Program? Not only has it been a staple program of Indian Education for over 80 years, but it’s also been a funding gap for several public school districts with large numbers of Native students. In this plan, JOM goes BYE. I mean, try and picture a world with no JOM program. At the very least, I can’t imagine anyone who would want to see the Challenge Bowl vanish.
In addition, it calls for a $61 million reduction in construction costs for Bureau of Indian Education schools, from $133 million in 2017 to a proposed $72 million. The administration proposed an alternative funding mechanism for school construction, but it does not include a plan for BIE schools.
Have you been outside lately? Ice one day, 70 degrees the next. Weather is pretty unpredictable these days. We’ve talked with our MCN Environmental Services Department about climate change and seeing its effects. We have elders and families with small children in our boundaries with limited means, where stretching those means and obtaining assistance is vital for even basic home necessities like heat and air. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been a valuable tool for these families and elders, and under this proposed plan LIHEAP goes to the trash heap.
Now this isn’t a political takedown piece or a commentary meant to bash the president or dissuade you from holding him and his plans in high regard. I know there are a lot of tribal members that voted for Trump and are behind him 100 percent. It’s not my place as a journalist to have an opinion one way or the other on who you did or didn’t vote for. You’ll never mistake my columns for a pulpit.
This is simply a look at some pretty serious and impactful proposed moves on Indian Country. But surely, we can all agree that we want what’s best for our nations and want to see treaties honored and upheld.
Don’t even take my word for it, research it for yourself. If you want to have a look at the proposed FY 2019 budget go ahead and dive in right here: www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/budget-fy2019.pdf. To me, this is not a partisan issue. It’s not a republican thing or a democrat thing; it’s an Indian thing.
It’s also important to note that this is just a proposal. That whole checks and balances thing that we all love so well puts final say and approval on what this will actually look like on the shoulders of the U.S. Congress. But this no doubt sends a signal as to what this administration’s plans may be going forward as it pertains to Native Americans.
If you feel strongly about the cuts that are proposed in this plan, my suggestion is to get on the phone with tribal council, chiefs, inter-tribal organizations and your state congress. Implore these individuals to lobby on your behalf. Tribes can combat this by having a strong presence in Washington, D.C. and at the state government level.
We’ve seen tribal interests gain momentum and have a larger seat at the table here in Oklahoma and that’s a welcome sign. It’s time to use that power. It can be done. The educational cuts mentioned are similar to cuts proposed in the 2018 version and the Bureau of Indian Education defeated them.
The president using generalizing insensitive language and speaking admirably of history’s ultimate “Indian Killer” are just words, they can never hurt you. Slashing essential funding and killing tribal programs at the federal level, that’s sticks and stones.