MILWAUKEE(Sputnik) — Native American tribes in the United States are facing possible significant budget cuts and must protect the existing funding at any price, Presidential Candidate to the National Congress of American Indians Jefferson Keel told Sputnik on Monday.
"We are facing severe cuts, the tribal governments are facing severe cuts to the budget. We need to protect it at all cost," Keel, who is also the Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, said.
Keel noted that so far, the tribes have not experienced budget cuts because "the budget presented this past year was already in place" while President Donald Trump has not yet presented the budget.
"I think next year we'll see the budget that will include some severe cuts to Indian country projects… just by what the President has said," Keel stated. "Particularly, with regard to Indian country health and human services, they are looking at severe cuts to Medicaid and Medicare. Those are one of the things we are looking at the tribal interiors."
"Those things are severe cuts and will have a severe impact on the Indian country," he said.
Keel added that the executive board of the NCAI has to address the issue and come up with strategies to offset the cuts.
"We need to go to Congress with the unified voice of the Indian country," he said. "We have to continue to educate all members of Congress on all the issues that are specific to Indian country."
"We need more funding for law enforcement across the board in terms of hiring more policemen," Keel said. "We have police now that are stretched thin. They simply don't have the means and resources to patrol the areas. They need better equipment, more people and more resources."
Keel noted that crime in Native American reservations is high because there are not enough policemen to adequately patrol and contain crime, and consequently crime levels tend to increase.
Most of the reservations, particularly larger reservations, are policed by federal police because they are Bureau of Indian Affairs policemen, but some tribal police have what is referred to as across deputization agreement.
"We actually supplement federal dollars. We improved that and actually put dollars with that to make sure that we have adequate police coverage. Otherwise we would not be able to police our area," Keel said.
When asked about other pressing issues US Native American tribes are facing, Keel named the protection of the tribal sovereignty, healthcare and ensuring the tribes have the opportunity to move forward with self-determination and self-governance.
Native American tribes in the United States lack funding for law enforcement, which has resulted in rising crime levels at reservations, Keel added.
"We need more funding for law enforcement across the board in terms of hiring more policemen," Keel, Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, said. "We have police now that are stretched thin. They simply don't have the means and resources to patrol the areas. They need better equipment, more people and more resources."
Keel spoke on the sidelines of the 74th Annual Convention & Marketplace in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which kicked off on October 15 and will last through October 20.
The six-day event, organized by the National Congress of American Indians, will focus on pressing matters, including tribal legislation, health, education and Native vote.
Established in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest and largest non-profit organization representing US native tribes and the interests of tribal governments and communities.