CN officials, citizens are relieved federal government temporarily opens
Cherokee Nation citizen Susan Young, of Fort Gibson, receives groceries at the Cherokee Nation Food Distribution Center in Tahlequah on Jan. 8 during the recent federal government shutdown. The tribe has 13,000 Natives, many elders and children, who rely on food shipments from the USDA through the tribe’s Food Distribution Program. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and tribal citizens expressed gratitude and relief Friday after hearing the federal government is temporarily reopening.
In the Cherokee Nation’s eight health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital, 177 Indian Health Service employees continued to work despite not receiving part of their paycheck during the 35-day government shutdown.
“The Cherokee Nation is thankful that President Trump and Congress have reached an agreement to temporarily open the federal government. The tribe hopes that the President and Congress will continue to work together to ensure the government remains open,” Chief Baker said. “I also want to express gratitude to the federally-paid health care workers in the Cherokee Nation health system for continuing to serve the patients of our facilities during this time, even when not being paid. We hope President Trump and Congress will do the right thing and issue back pay for their time served during the shutdown.”
Cherokee Nation citizen and Registered Nurse Bobbi Scott was one of the 177 working on partial pay during the shutdown. She is on an Indian Health Service contract in the Intensive Care Unit at W.W. Hastings Hospital.
“I’m very relieved they are trying to make an effort to resolve this,” Scott said. “I was fortunate to get partially paid to cover most of my last paycheck, but the uncertainty ahead was what was stressful for me.”
The tribe arranged one free meal per day for the government employees during work shifts at Hastings and had offered assistance through employee loans, she said.
Cherokee Nation’s Women, Infant and Children office serves 6,000 mothers or expected mothers who were concerned about whether essential nutrition supplies might run out.
Also, the tribe also has 13,000 Natives, many elders and children, who rely on shipments of healthy foods from the United States Department of Agriculture through the tribe’s Food Distribution Program.
The Cherokee Nation’s operating budget for fiscal year 2019 is funded about 68 percent from federal program funds. By treaty, the U.S. government has a federal trust responsibility to federally recognized tribes and that obligation isn’t met during government shutdowns.