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Govt Shutdown Whittles Staff at US Indian Affairs Bureau to 'Skeleton Crew'

© Sputnik / Larisa Sayenko / American Indians, the indigenous people of the Americas
American Indians, the indigenous people of the Americas - Sputnik International
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US government’s partial shutdown violates certain peace treaties with Native American tribes by disrupting services from federal agencies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe spokesperson Remi Bald Eagle told Sputnik.

Monday marked day 24 of the longest US federal government shutdown in history, with nearly all but the most essential agencies closed. And there is no end in sight as President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats refuse to compromise on a budget deal due to differences over border security.

"The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, like every tribe, is hit particularly hard by the government shutdown. Bureau of Indian Affairs has been reduced to a skeleton crew and communicating with them is a challenge," Bald Eagle said on Monday. "The BIA is responsible for implementing the trust responsibility the United States has by treaty [Ft. Laramie treaty of 1851 and the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868] with our tribe. When this agency closes the doors they are violating those terms."

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Bald Eagle also said their reservation has a high unemployment rate and the furlough of federal workers has become a big burden on tribal resources trying to assist members impacted by the shutdown.

The Cheyenne River Sioux tribe had to work with the local Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital to allocate funds that could be used to pay workers affected by the shutdown, Bald Eagle added.

The economy on the Cheyenne reservation is small and consists of a handful of gas stations, restaurants and other businesses, the spokesperson said. The shutdown will cause these local businesses to lose out amid the government shutdown because they rely heavily on spending by federal employees, he added.

READ MORE: NCAI: Trump Budget Proposal Clear Retreat From US Commitments to Native Tribes

The National Congress of American Indians said in a press release last week that the shutdown has hindered US federal services such as the BIA and IHS, which provide health care, public safety, and education to tribal nations as part of US obligations under previous treaty negotiations.

About 800,000 federal workers have either been sent home or forced to work without pay since the shutdown began on December 22. On Saturday, the current stalemate became the longest shutdown in history, topping the 21-day government closure in the 1990s.

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Earlier on Monday, Trump told reporters at the White House that he rejected a proposal from Senator Lindsey Graham to reopen the government for a few weeks while negotiations on border wall funding continue.

The president has hinted that he could declare a national emergency in order to secure funds to build a wall along the border with Mexico, though he has said he would prefer to reach a deal with Congress on the matter.

Congressional Democrats and US President Donald Trump continue to be at odds on a new spending bill. Trump is asking Congress to approve more than $5 billion for constructing a wall on the border with Mexico as part of the spending bill, while Democrats refuse to provide the funds for a border wall.

READ MORE: US Website Lays Out Five Paths Out of Gov’t Shutdown — And What Will Block Them

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