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Tribes bash proposed Trump budget cuts to Native Americans

Tribal leaders from the Pacific Northwest pose for a picture during a meeting of the Members of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians in Portland, Ore., Thursday, May 25, 2017. The group held a news conference during their annual convention to criticize cuts to Native American programs in President Donald Trump's proposed budget that they say will devastate tribes across the U.S. Front row, from left, are Cheryl Kennedy, vice chairwoman of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde; Carina Miller, councilwoman with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; and Fawn Sharp, president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. Back row, from left, are Timothy Ballew, member of the Lummi Nation; Mel Sheldon, councilman with the Tulalip Tribes and Gary Burke, chairman of the board of trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Dozens of Native American tribes in six Western states expressed outrage Thursday at President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to American Indian programs, saying they would erase significant progress on child welfare and climate change and gut social services and education on reservations across the U.S.

Members from tribes in Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Idaho and Alaska called on Congress to restore funding to tribes during budget negotiations. The cuts ignore the treaty responsibilities to federally recognized tribes, they said, and put a stranglehold on programs that have been chronically underfunded.

Coalter Baker, a spokesman with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

“This is the single largest attack on Indian Country that we’ve experienced in recent history. There is no doubt that the president has made a statement toward Indian County,” said Mel Sheldon, a councilman with the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state. “It is not a good statement.”

The proposed budget would slash $64 million in federal Native American funding for education, $21 million for law enforcement and safety, $27 million for natural resources management programs run by tribes plus $23 million from human services, which includes the Indian Child Welfare Act, said Carina Miller, a councilwoman with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, in Oregon.

It would also eliminate funding for tribal work on climate change and cut block grant programs that provide housing assistance for Native Americans, she added.

Eliminating $10 million for a program that helps tribes prepare for and deal with rapid environmental change would be particularly harmful, said Fawn Sharp, president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest have identified so-called “climate resiliency” as a top priority, said Sharp, who is also a member of the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington state.

“The reality is, is that’s how we lived. The indigenous way of thinking is you’re stewards of the land,” said Miller.

Cutting the funding will negatively “affect the actions of projects and our ability to rehabilitate the environment,” she added.

The leaders spoke at a three-day convention of Native American leaders in Portland, Oregon attended by representatives from 57 tribes.

The proposed budget was the topic of a session attended by 300 tribal members.

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Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus

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