Native News Network Staff in Native Briefs. Discussion »
LACONNER, WASHINGTON In his first statement after being sworn in as the 21st president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Brian Cladoosby Chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community – called for reduced thresholds for federal tribal disaster assistance and challenged Congress to prioritize Native peoples in the post-shutdown legislative calendar, including acting on the Farm Bill:
"As I begin my term, my thoughts and prayers are with the South Dakota tribes. The Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes have been devastated by the recent storm that swept the Great Plains – and the federal government failed, again, to maintain treaty agreements that ensure disaster relief is provided when citizens are in distress. When the federal government neglects citizens in times of emergency, the effects can be long term.
Tribes are now eligible for federal disaster assistance under the Stafford Act, however the high monetary damages threshold hampers impoverished areas because what is lost by low-income citizens often does not meet the required amount. The federal government has a fiduciary duty to protect tribal citizens but without changes to the threshold, tribal citizens will continue to suffer from the consequences of disasters.
The immediate problems caused by collapsing homes and widespread loss of livestock are only the beginning. Tribal ranchers and farmers in South Dakota will feel the economic impact of this storm for years to come as they will now have to rebuild their livelihoods from scratch. Allowing the current Farm Bill to lapse without action, coupled with the government shutdown, meant that support systems at the Department of Agriculture were unavailable to Native farmers and ranchers during this terrible storm. These failures of Congress prolong the claims process and inhibit Native food production and economic development.
Further, with no Farm Bill and the lack of government funding for food assistance programs, many tribal citizens were left without access to food all while these vital programs are used as political bargaining chips. No one – especially our tribal citizens most in need – should ever have to go without food while being used as pawns in the lawmaking process.
Congress must pass a Farm Bill that will support tribal nations and others around the country who are in dire straits and it must keep nutrition programs with farm policies because there should never be a disconnect between food production and feeding people. Congress must act immediately to provide rapid recovery for our tribes and work to ensure that political gamesmanship and inactivity does not harm Native peoples again."
posted October 24, 2013 6:30 am edt