The holiday season has been grim for many at the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota, said a tribal member whose general assistance funds have been cut off for several months. “I haven’t had a check since July and at this point can’t even afford a newspaper,” the tribal member said. “And there’s no other source of money here for the many people who have lost this funding—no casino money, nothing.”
Bureau of Indian Affairs spokesperson Nedra Darling confirmed that the agency’s general assistance funding is running low, causing checks to stop flowing to employable single people on reservations countrywide. About 350 people have been cut off at Turtle Mountain, Darling said. “Each year, Congress decides how much money we’ll have for these payments, and therefore the ability of the agency to make them,” said Darling. “Families with children get priority, and the agency didn’t receive enough funding in 2011 to meet the level of need among all groups.”
As a result, many without dependents have stopped receiving checks. Darling added that the shortfall “has not gone unnoticed.” What will happen next year is not yet clear, because funding for 2012 will not be known until approximately February, she said.
The Turtle Mountain tribal member said calls to the tribal office to seek a solution or alternative for the lost funding had not been returned. The tribe, including an official who has apparently been appointed to a committee to consider the problem, did not respond to Indian Country Today Media Network’s requests for a comment.