Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.
This week represents, perhaps, the most important week of lobbying for tribal nations since the end of the termination era. At a variety of meetings in Washington, D.C., including the National Congress of American Indians, leaders from Indian Country will fan out across Capitol Hill and make the case to Congress against deep spending cuts.
A new published summary of the White House Tribal Nations Conference makes that point from tribes several times over. “Indian programs should be exempt from mandatory spending cuts,” the report says. “In particular, the Indian Health Service programs should not be reduced.”
On health care the White House report reflected that idea as well. “Recognizing that American Indians and Alaska Natives die from many illnesses at far higher rates than the rest of the population, the President stated that closing the gaps in health disparities is ‘not just a question of policy, it’s a question of our values, it’s a test of who we are as a nation.’ To help achieve this goal, in 2010 the President signed into law the Affordable Care Act, which will make quality health insurance affordable to all Americans and permanently reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.”
In December when the White House conference took place there was a recognition that the new Congress was going to be changing all sorts of things. But what wasn’t known is that the rules of how Congress would act changed dramatically. The center of power shifted away from committee chairman, and especially appropriations sub-committees, to a smaller group in leadership.