Federal shutdown impacts Cherokee Nation

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 10/03/2013 6:09 pm Published: 10/03/2013 5:11 pm

Indian tribes in Oklahoma will soon start feeling the effects of the federal government shutdown.

Tribes rely on federal subsidies to operate and to provide services to their tribal members, and without those federal funds, the tribes and their people could soon start suffering.

The Cherokee Nation recently passed a $566.6 million budget, and about 50 percent of that comes from the federal government.

Officials plan ahead and can continue to provide most services for about a month, but after that, things could get dicey.

"We're stable. We take really good care of the Cherokee people's money. So, So we can weather the storm for a while," said Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

Baker says some programs are in good shape.

"Sequoyah High School, their year started in July, so we've already got a funding cycle. Our housing program is actually funded a year in advance," he said.

He said priority No. 1 is making sure employees get a paycheck.

Casino money continues to roll in, but it isn't enough.

"We're doing so many services for our people that we're not just rolling dough," he said.

Other programs are federal and only administered by the Cherokee Nation.

"The programs that are most at-risk are the WIC (women, infants and children) program, the donated foods program," he said.

"We're already feeling the effects of it," said Bud Squirrel, with the Cherokee Nation's food pantry.

Squirrel said the U.S. Department of Agriculture told them Thursday it doesn't know when another food shipment will come in to the food pantry.

"Once it's gone, this month's allotment, then it's gone," he said.

Fresh fruits and vegetables will likely run out in a matter of days, though there are nonperishables.

"We started out the month, Oct. 1, with a full month's worth. So we have about three weeks' worth still left," he said.

After that, who knows.

And the people that rely on that food are getting worried.

"They're starting to. You can hear the buzz," he said.

With no end to the shutdown in sight, Squirrel and the entire Cherokee Nation are squeezing every penny and doing all they can to make it through.

"That is frustrating. We always hope for the best but try to plan for the worst," he said.

The Cherokee Nation is in better shape than a lot of the very small tribes in Oklahoma that don't have casinos or other businesses and rely entirely on the federal government.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

Disgruntled - 10/4/2013 9:09 AM
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They rely on money from the government (tax payers money) but they are their own sovereign nation with their own laws and regulations. Why are we giving them money??? If the Indian people (of which I'm one by the way) want to govern their own people, then let them raise their own money. A federal marshal is the only one that can serve warrants on their lands, but they want the money that the taxpayers pay to the federal government to fund roads, our country's military and other vital services??? This is crazy. If you want to be a separate country within our country, the least you can do is raise your own money and quit counting on ours.
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