Washington Post, January 15, 2019
Darryl Fears


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As the partial government shutdown drags on, Native American tribes in urban and rural areas are facing food shortages and a health care crisis because federal funds that stock pantries and provide medicine for diabetes and opioid addiction have been cut off, witnesses told a House committee Tuesday.

In addition to the shutdown’s impact on indigenous people, citizen observers at national parks are reporting poaching of wild game such as deer, garbage piled high and trees that have been illegally cut as most park workers remain on furlough, former Interior officials who appeared before the committee said.

“We have thus far had to deny purchase of care requests that are critical to chronic care management -- insulin, blood pressure medication, thyroid medication and antibiotics -- thus impacting the quality of life for the individuals we serve,” said Kerry Hawk Lessard, executive director of Native American Lifelines, which provides services to indigenous Americans from Baltimore to Boston. Hawk Lessard said the organization closed its doors Saturday when funding ran out.

“We are not alone in feeling these impacts,” Hawk Lessard said. “Many of the 41 Urban Indian Health Programs that span 22 states are struggling without adequate funds.”

Hawk Lessard was one of three Native Americans who testified before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that arranged a panel of care providers and former Interior officials to address the shutdown’s effects on the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the system of national parks and wildlife refuges. [...]

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