Chairman Ernest Stevens Jr. Delivers Remarks on Capitol Hill Urging An End to The Longest Government Shutdown in History

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January 24, 2019

Washington, D.C. – January 24, 2019 – Ernest Stevens Jr., Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), delivered remarks at the Stanley Crooks Tribal Leaders Center, located on Capitol Hill, to urge Congress and the Administration to endthe longest government shutdown in history.
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NIGA joined our Sister Organizations, Tribal Governments, and Tribal Leaders, in calling for an end to this destructive shutdown andurges its Member Tribes and any other tribal citizen within Indian Country, to contact your Representatives and Senators about impacts of the Shutdown on your community. (information is below).
The government shutdown directly impacts essential governmental services to all residents of Indian Country. It is endangering lives and property on tribal lands, while burdening those most in need of assistance.
Native Nations entered into treaties with the United States. In so doing, our governments ceded hundreds of millions of acres to the federal government. In return, the Government promised to provide for the health, education, public safety, and general care of Reservation residents.
Funding for programs and services administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Indian Health Service (IHS), and other federal agencies subject to the shutdown represent the Government’s most basic attempt to meet these solemn treaty and trust obligations to Native Nations. These agencies provide funding for Indian health care, education, and public safety, which are the cornerstone of the federal government’s obligations.
Our people are suffering. It is immoral to permit Native children, elders, and those most in need to become collateral damage to the dysfunctional politics in Washington, D.C. The Senate took the first steps today in voting on proposals to re-open the Government. While this legislation fell short on procedural grounds, it is encouraging the Senate is seeking to find common ground.

“There is nothing more essential to the lives of our Tribal citizens than maintaining the health, safety, education, and welfare services on the Reservation that depend on Federal money. As the shutdown lingers on, these services are being cut-off, or are at risk of being substantially reduced. Our Board Members and NIGA Member Tribes are now urging Congress and the President to end this shutdown,” stated Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr.

“The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are losing about $400,000 per day, and $1.2 million per week…,” stated one Tribal witness.
In Osage County, the Osage Tribe is being forced to close the only women’s shelter due to lack of funding caused by the shutdown. The Pawnee Nation launched a GoFundMe campaign to buy groceries for families of federal workers affected by the government shutdown. Many Pawnee employees whose salary is covered by federal funds are still working but without pay.
On the Navajo Nation, a snow storm blanketed the Reservation in early January, many Navajo citizens were trapped in their homes for days. BIA workers, furloughed during the call for snow removal, were slow to respond. Roads were ultimately cleared by unpaid federal employees. These stories have reached the office of newly elected Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico, a Laguna Pueblo citizen. Congresswoman Haaland made remarks on the House floor calling for an end to the shutdown.
“As someone who relied on government assistance programs when I was raising my daughter as a single mom, I’ve been there and I know,” said Rep. Haaland. “I know that it is devastating for these people to worry about how they are going to pay for their next meal and take care of their families.”

Contact Your Members of Congress:

NIGA is committed to sharing your stories of the shutdown’s impact on your Tribe and its citizens and encourages you to contact your Members of Congress with the impacts this Shutdown is having on your day-to-day lives. A model letter is attached for your use to tell your Senate and Congressional delegations how the impact is impacting your Tribe.

As a national Tribal resource located on Capitol Hill, NIGA is uniquely situated to tell your stories daily to Congress and the administrative agencies that serve Indian Country. Please send a copy of your Tribe’s letter to Chelsea Blake at

It is our sincere hope that this shutdown ends tomorrow, but we must be prepared to take action now to ensure the long-term health of Indian Country in the absence of Federal funds.