Brian Daffron
The empty parking lot of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Anadarko Agency.

Oklahoma Tribes Weathering the Shutdown

Brian Daffron


In the Southwest Oklahoma town of Anadarko, Oklahoma, one of the largest employers is the federal government. These federal entities range from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Anadarko Agency offices to the Department of the Interior Southern Plains Indian Museum. At press time, signs on the doors said in bold letters “Closed Due to Government Shutdown.” Parking lots remain empty, with the exception of government-issued vehicles that remain in their spaces.

On the other hand, some federal entities have remained open, falling within the range of the government’s “essential services.” The BIA Police are still available, with their phone number typed on the Anadarko Agency’s “Shutdown” sign. Next door, the Anadarko Indian Health Center—part of Indian Health Service—is open for business. Across the highway, Riverside Indian School—a federal boarding school that is part of the Bureau of Indian Education—is also open. Sources inside the school said this is possible due to Riverside’s federal funding being allocated from July of this year to July of the following year.

Tribal governments in Oklahoma are faring better than expected at press time. For some tribes, it is due in part from gaming and other diversified interests. For others, it is due to grant monies and other funding from established “draw-downs” already in place.

The Cherokee Nation—one of the largest tribes not only in Oklahoma but in the nation—continues to run its programs and businesses. “The Cherokee Nation’s sound financial stewardship and efficient governmental spending mean the failings of the federal government to secure a budget compromise will not affect the Cherokee Nation in the short to mid-term,” Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker said in a released statement.

“While the Cherokee Nation is prepared, many tribes across Indian country will suffer by losing important services we believe are guaranteed by the United States’ trust obligation,” Baker continued. “Our hearts go out to those tribal citizens, and our prayers are with them during this difficult and uncertain time. We are in regular contact with elected leaders in Washington and are hopeful this issue will be resolved swiftly and that a federal budget is approved.”

Echoing a similar sense of reassurance is the Muscogee Creek Nation, who stated in a press release issued on their website that tribal measures against a federal shutdown have already been in place. However, there is some concern from tribal leaders if the shutdown extends past 30 days.

“The shutdown will not have an immediate or negative impact on tribal services or to any tribal citizens,” the statement said. “In the event that the shutdown should last more than 30 days, then there may be implications that will require adjustments to be made.”

The statement continues with a quote from MCN Principal Chief George Tiger. “The planning process for our budgets has allowed us to be able to operate in a timely manner,” Tiger said. “I would encourage Congress to exercise bipartisan cooperation to pass the federal budget, which affects the entire nation.”

Oklahoma tribes with smaller enrollments also continue on as before. For one of the tribes contacted by Indian Country Today Media Network, the Anadarko, Oklahoma-based Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, programs at press time are still running.

“Our programs are still operating,” said tribal administrator Yolanda Reyna, adding that programs such as Food Distribution “cannot be shut down.” Reyna also said that the tribe could supplement programs through tribal revenues.

The Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes, based in Concho, Oklahoma, continue to run the majority of its programs funded by federal monies. These include the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO). According to Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune’s Editor-in-Chief, Rosemary Stephens, these programs can still make draw-downs on current funds through February 2014. However, due to the shutdown, Stephens said the tribal government has suspended travel funds usually allocated for training purposes.

Similar to other tribes, the Caddo Nation, based in Binger, Oklahoma, are continuing to run its tribal operations, but similar to statements made by Muscogee Creek Nation, there is concern if the shutdown extends longer than to be expected.

“Right now, we’re not affected by [government shutdown],” said tribal council representative Anna Donaghey. “Our money is already in place.” However, Donaghey also added, “In the long run, we may be.”