President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget makes dramatic cuts to what little remains of the social safety net. If the budget is approved, many will suffer. But Native Americans will be among those hit hardest by the budget’s extreme austerity.
To really understand the abject cruelty of this budget, you have to understand that tribal communities are already living on the edge. Thanks to the systematic repression of native culture, Native American languages are all but extinct. Native youth are almost twice as likely as average American youth to commit suicide. And one in four Native Americans is living in poverty.
The Trump budget does nothing to improve these metrics. Some two million Native Americans receive health care and other services from the Bureau of Indian affairs, an agency within the Interior Department. But Trump’s budget proposal slashes Interior Department funding by 12 percent. That translates to cuts of:
- $64 million for Native American education
- $21 million for reservation law enforcement and safety
- $27 million for natural resources management programs run by tribes
- $23 million from human services
Money for law enforcement is especially important to ensure local safety. The Oglala Sioux tribe’s police budget, for instance, currently supports just 44 officers who are charged with covering a reservation that sprawls 3,468 square miles. That’s an area slightly less than the size of three Rhode Islands.
Tribal education would suffer under the White House budget. One of the deepest cuts to Native American budgets would be the elimination of $1.2 billion in grants for after-school and summer programs. Robert Brave Heart Sr., the executive vice president of Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, said the Trump administration’s plan would hurt his students. Other cuts to service programs like Americorps would make it more difficult for Indian schools to afford teachers and even bus drivers.
Native American communities would also be hurt by cuts to climate change programs. Trump has called climate change a hoax and installed avowed climate deniers to lead the Department of Energy and EPA. But Native tribes, especially those in the Pacific Northwest, consider climate resiliency programs important for cultural as well as practical reasons. “The reality is, is that’s how we lived,” said Carina Miller, a councilwoman with Oregon’s Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. “The indigenous way of thinking is you’re stewards of the land.”
Mason Big Crow, treasurer of the Oglala Sioux tribe, said his tribe stands to lose at least half of the money it currently receives from federal funds. According to Mel Sheldon, a councilman with the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state, “This is the single largest attack on Indian Country that we’ve experienced in recent history. There is no doubt that the president has made a statement toward Indian County. It is not a good statement.”
Even the casual student of U.S. history knows that time and again, Native Americans have been cheated, lied to, and brutally massacred by the American government. The Trump budget, if approved, will only perpetuate this history of mistreatment.
Featured image via YouTube video.