Cherokee Nation leader urges Speaker Johnson to prevent ‘devastating’ shutdown

A leader of the Cherokee Nation is warning Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to avoid a government shutdown, saying it would have a “devastating” impact on Indian Country and the Cherokee Nation in particular.

A partial shutdown will begin March 2 unless Congress takes action to extend funding. Appropriations covered by the Agriculture, Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bills would be the first to expire, with other appropriations running through March 8.

Congress is on recess, and the House is not set to return to Washington, D.C., until just before the first deadline.

“As the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation – the largest tribal nation in the United States with citizens living in every state across the country, including Louisiana – I write to draw your attention to the devastating impact that a federal government shutdown will have not only on Cherokee Nation in particular, but also for Indian Country as a whole,” Chuck Hoskin Jr., the Cherokee Nation principal chief, wrote in the letter to Johnson.

The letter was addressed to Johnson on Feb. 14, ahead of the annual National Congress of American Indians in Washington. He urged Johnson to “take this danger into account” as the March 1 and March 8 deadlines to pass funding bills approach.

Hoskin emphasized that essential tribal services such as health care, education programs and public safety that are funded by federal money will “be severely curtailed if Congress fails to keep the government open.”

“These services are not luxuries but lifelines that maintain the health, culture, and safety of our people,” he wrote in the letter, first reported by The Washington Post.

If the federal government were to shut down, Hoskin said more than 142,000 Cherokee Nation citizens will not be provided with groceries, nearly 13,000 people will lose access to diabetes medication and cancer treatment and more than 1,000 will not be able to continue workplace training programs. He added that detention agreements “will have to be canceled,” which could release 85,000 “criminals before their sentences are served.”

Hoskin argued that if the federal government shuts down, it disrupts the Cherokee Nation’s ability to exercise sovereignty because it “cannot fully administer the programs that are central to our self-governance.” He added that the same is true for all tribal nations in the country, which will greatly feel the effects of a shutdown.

“I implore you, as Speaker of the House, to consider the broader implications of a government shutdown on Indian Country,” he wrote. “It is critical that the United States honor its commitments and responsibilities by finding a resolution that averts this crisis.”

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