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U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: Feds Fail To Support First Nations

Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

The federal government is failing to meet its obligations to Native American tribes, according to a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, the shortcomings affect many major areas for tribes, including those in Oregon.

Since colonization, the U.S. Government has signed off on nearly 400 treaties with the First Nations, offering services in exchange for acquiring their lands. But the commission says there remain continued spending shortfalls in areas vital to tribal communities.

In a conference call, Catherine Lhamon of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said basic infrastructure needs are greatly lacking on reservations.

Credit Bradley Fulton / Flickr.com
An old playground and shelter on the Navajo reservation.

“For example, an estimated 14 percent of households in Indian Country have no access to electricity.  That’s a rate 10 times higher than the national average.”

Cheryle Kennedy is Chairwoman of Oregon’s Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde. She agrees with the report’s other finding that health care funding is below the national average.  

In 2017, Indian Health Services spending per patient was nearly a third of that for the rest of the U.S.  This has led to higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions.

“And then you wonder why the health disparities for Native Americans are at such a high rate," Kennedy tells KLCC. 

"The United States expects all nations to live up to their treaty obligations.  It should live up to its own.”

Among the commission’s recommendations are a Congressional spending package to address disparities across “Indian Country”.

Copyright 2018, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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