President Reagan's new budget is bad news for Indians.
From general cuts in public service jobs and economic development grants to specific reductions in Indian housing and health care, the Reagan budget will have a devastating impact on reservations throughout the country, according to spokesmen for Indian organizations.
"The Indians, who are the poorest of the poor, are being cut every which way," said Suzan Harjo, legislative liaison for the Native American Rights Fund.
Ken Black of the National Tribal Chairman's Association, after a first analysis of the new budget, estimated that the cuts would "eliminate at least half of the employment among Indians and reverse the past decade's trend toward reservation development."
The Office of Management and Budget has not completed an analysis of how much total spending on behalf of Indians will be cut, but OMB analysts say Indians have not been singled out by the new administration. "As far as the Bureau of Indian Affairs goes, we've been generous in our cuts," said one OMB analyst. "Indian programs were cut less than half the amount other Interior programs were cut."
But reductions in other programs make it appear to Indian organizations as if they have been targeted -- and by a president who won many votes among Indians with his promise to honor their treaties and upgrade their living conditions.
Black's group estimates that spending for Indians will be reduced by 35 percent, but his figures are imprecise and may be high.
Black and Harjo said cuts in public service jobs will cause unemployment on reservations, already around 40 percent, to rise to 60 percent or more. "It was only though this program that we were able to put people to work, to train them and keep them off the welfare rolls," Black said.
Further, elimination of the Economic Development Administration and reductions in business enterprise grants to Indians will impede development of new jobs on reservations, Black said.
Said Chuck Johnson of the Zuni Indian Reservation in New Mexico, "We know people are going to have to leave the reservation."
The biggest cut will come through the proposed elimination of the Indian Housing Program. The administration's budget says that the $703 million redcution in budget authority next year is necessary because of the 5 1/2-year backlog in construction and the $179,000 per unit cost of the program. "The outlays of the housing program are not being cut," said an OMB analyst. "This money never would have been spent anyway. The same number of houses will be built in 1982 as would have been without this cut."
But the administration also proposes to cut sewage grants, funded separately, for these same housing units, which could reduce the number of houses built next year. And once the pipeline has been cleared, there is no guarantee that the administration will provide new money for Indian housing.
"We're seeing the housing program zeroed, along with no increase in sewage and sanitation money in the Indian Health Program and road construction grants reduced," Harjo said. "I think it looks awfully dire for Indians."
Harjo also said the administration's proposal to eliminate the Legal Services Administration will mean "for Indian people a denial of access to the courts. It takes away virtually the only avenue they have to the courts." t
Other cuts will reduce funding for general health care, reforestation, education, welfare, the construction of three new health clinics and the repair of various facilities. "That is a reduction in a program to get schools out of the condemnation stage," Harjo said.
Overall funding for programs under the Bureau of Indian Affairs will be cut about $69 million in fiscal 1982. The administration has proposed that 10 Indian programs be consolidated into one block grant, administered by the tribes, and has recommended that funding for those be reduced by 25 percent. They include money for agriculture, adult education, fire protection and vocational training.