Yankton Sioux Tribe Statement Regarding the Partial Shutdown of the Federal Government

Published January 5, 2019

WAGNER, S.D. — As the partial federal government shutdown enters its third week, the Yankton Sioux Tribe released the following statement regading the impact the shutdown is having on its tribe:

The Yankton Sioux Tribe has been asked by media outlets whether the Tribe is affected by the partial shutdown of the federal government.  The Tribe is not currently directly affected.  However, the Indian Health Services (IHS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), both federal agencies that employ our members and provide a number of services to the Tribe and our members, are affected.  A prolonged shutdown has the potential to negatively affect the Tribe and our community in a number of ways.

Prior to the shutdown, we monitored the developments of budget discussions in Washington, D.C.  The week of December 17, 2018, it appeared nearly certain that the budget discussions had reached a stalemate over one key issue – the building of a border wall.  At that time, the Tribe took proactive steps to ensure that we could continue to provide services to our membership and pay our employees by ensuring we had enough funds available to continue to operate.  Unfortunately, the elected leaders in Washington, D.C. could not work through the stalemate and the federal government has partially shutdown.

The Tribe continues to operate and provide services to our membership and community in the same manner as it did prior to the federal government partial shutdown.  We have been informed, however, that the IHS may soon be forced to reduce services provided to its clients.  The IHS employees have been asked to continue to work but without the guarantee of payment.  This proposition would be a burden on any individual and is just one of the many reasons that the Tribe is disappointed that the federal leadership in Washington has been unable to approve a federal budget.  Likewise, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is currently staffed by just the agency superintendent.  While we appreciate her presence, she is not equipped to continue to provide all of the federal services to our membership as the BIA regularly does.  This includes, land lease and land management services to both the Tribe and individual members, funeral assistance, general assistance, management of tribal and individual trust accounts, probate services, and other important services that the tribe, its members, and our community routinely utilize.

With each passing day, we are moving closer and closer to the reality that we may need to start reducing services to our tribal member and furlough employees.  We all watch the nightly news for two important updates – did a federal budget pass and is there a winter storm rolling in.  We know with each storm or cold night that our membership needs propane to keep their families warm and fed and that many of our members and the surrounding community depend on energy assistance from both the tribe and the state.  The lack of federal funds for both the tribe and the state to provide energy assistant is a critical issue that deeply concerns us.  We are working to do everything we can to avoid or minimize the effects that a shutdown could have on our members, employees, and community. The realities of our economic status as a tribe and as individual citizens leaves little room for any of us to go without services, assistance, and a paycheck.  We are also deeply concerned about the potential that funding levels will take years to return to the same level and address actual need.  After all, many tribes and some may argue the federal budget still has not recovered from the sequestration of federal funds experienced in 2013.

We call up the elected leaders in Washington, D.C. – Senator Thune, Senator Rounds, and Representative Johnson – to put aside the demand for a border wall and think about their obligations to fund the federal government.  None of the challenges that we face as a Tribe or as a State are caused by border security, yet the Tribe, the State, and our citizens are or will soon be directly harmed by the lack of a federal budget.  We expect common-sense decisions from Washington, D.C.  It is time to put the priorities of the people before a vanity project and consider the harms that the lack of a budget is having or will soon have on the people.

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