Shutdown Could Affect Health Of Local Catawba Native Americans

ROCK HILL, SC — Concerns are growing that the government shutdown could mean no medical care for Native American tribes.

Clinics on reservations operate on federal dollars, and the Chief of the Catawba Indian Nation in Rock Hill says facilities are already dipping into emergency funds as the shutdown nears the 30 day mark.

Chief Bill Harris calls lawmakers’ failure to make a compromise is unforgivable.

He says losing medical care would be the biggest impact on the reservation if the shutdown continues.

“These people here do not have another place to go. They end up in emergency situations at the hospital, and we all know that that ends up being: people once again pay for that,” said Chief Harris.

Doctors on the reservation are paid through Indian Health Services. Chief Harris says IHS is dipping into emergency reserve funds to pay them now.

WCCB Charlotte called the regional office in Nashville to find out how much longer that money can last, but no one answered there due to the shutdown.

The chief says there are about 600 families on the reservation, mostly children and teenagers, and their health could be greatly impacted by this.

Chief Harris says it could hurt the program that feeds senior citizens, disrupt transportation systems, emergency management
and it violates treaties in which the government agreed to pay.

“Everyone signed those agreements with the understanding that the next generation is going to honor them,” said Chief Harris.

He says there are 33 federally recognized tribes west of the Mississippi River, all impacted by the shutdown because the government agreed to fund their programs.