Ericka is a Women AdvaNCe board member and is a standing representative for the Coalition of Woodland Nations, and has been a leader in the North Carolina movement to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, as well as a volunteer in the North Dakota Access Pipeline movement.
The Trump Administration has announced a 300 million dollar cut to American Indian Healthcare programs. One type of program on the chopping block is those aimed at reducing teen pregnancy in American Indian youth in Oklahoma and Arizona. Over 25% of teen girls become pregnant before they hit their twenties. Jennifer Hettema, a professor at the University of New Mexico says ““We are just reeling. We’re not sure how we’ll adapt.” These programs were implemented under the Obama Administration and were found to be highly effective at reducing teen pregnancy.
US Senator Steve Daines of Montana was not happy with the healthcare cuts. He emotionally proposed changing the name of “Indian Health Services” to “Indian Health Suffering.” Montana is home to many tribes, including the Blackfeet Tribe, Chippewa Cree Tribe, Crow Tribe, Fort Peck Tribes and more. Daines defended the American Indian residents in his state, “these are real families, single moms, single dads, aunts, uncles, elderly tribal leaders, that are suffering greatly.”
Many Senators understood that they had to defend the budget and think critically about what cuts need to be made where, but many were beside themselves that Trump had the mindset of “let’s take care of our own first,” as though indigenous peoples in the United States are not Americans, and less important. Senator Lisa Murkowski pointed out that the US was already failing American Indian Tribes, though other Senators mentioned that the cuts were small, however Murkowski did not agree, “I know that your job is to defend this budget, but I just I just have to say ‘wow.’
While the cuts to Indian Health Services will only make a small dent in in long term federal spending, it will have a big impact on small, rural communities. These cuts will especially impact those American Indian residents that live in rural areas. These low population areas are not empty, and contain valuable human life. The Chartis Group, a rural think tank, estimates that current proposals would cause “a loss of $1.b billion in revenue a year to rural providers and an immediate loss of 34,000 jobs.” ACA funding was designed to help modernize health services American Indian families were receiving, and it did a good job at that.