As the federal government shutdown loomed last week, the deputy head of the largest Indian tribe in California sat in her office, doing some gut-wrenching math.
To absorb expected cuts, she'd have to suspend childcare for over 50 families, leave about 100 college scholarships unpaid, suspend tutoring for 1,900 students and furlough 60 of her tribe's 310 employees in a community already plagued by 80 percent unemployment.
"I had a migraine the whole last week when I was trying to assess this," said Susan Masten, vice chairwoman of the Yurok Tribe in remote northern California. "It's really disturbing when it's all just because of politics. They're taking families' livelihoods away."
With those cuts now in place, she says two more weeks of the shutdown would require her to furlough another 74 workers, which would threaten food distribution to isolated areas of her reservation where people will otherwise go hungry.
As a federal government closure approaches its third week, Native American tribes around the country that rely on government aid and bound by its bureaucracy have been hard hit, with funding for programs like foster care, natural resource administration and food aid suspended.
Other services deemed essential, such as law enforcement, medical care and some social services, remain operational.
While some tribes have used income from casinos to defray the cuts and others have leveraged assets not in federal trust to borrow needed cash, those less fortunate have been left to take the suspension in government services on the chin.
Six tribes closed food distribution programs in the first week of the shutdown, said Jaime Prouty, treasurer of the National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations, affecting about 2,550 tribal members.
In Montana, the Crow Tribe has furloughed 380 employees, including its 10 police officers, after the shutdown prevented it from accessing royalties from a coal mine it owns. The federal government manages the mine's profits, a circumstance shared by other tribes that own natural resources like timber and grazing lands held in federal trust.
"It's our money but we can't get to it," said Darrin Old Coyote, chairman of the Crow Tribe. "We're treated as the stepchild