Monday, August 4, 2008

IHS mismanages... quite a bit

I spotted this last week - IHS has "mismanaged" a few dollars worth of equipment - to the tune of $16 million. But today the Anchorage Daily News had a bit more on how it affected the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium right here - about $6 million. ANTHC was not faulted for the mismanagement, it seems to be a job done by IHS nationwide.

Throughout, there seems to be a mix of not documenting what is going on, not knowing what is going on, and deception, depending what part of the nation the IHS office is. The IHS director would not characterize it as a mess - "It's complicated."

It's hard to have sympathy for this agency I have reported to my whole life. For the average Native person, IHS is like a cross between the DMV, the Bureau of Vital Statistics and some distant, yet powerful, entity deciding things about your life but wanting no input from those it serves. It's maybe a bit ironic that this agency is so strict about those it serves, but has this incredible lack of management (not just one instance, over 150 locations across the nation!) and accountability of its own.

One of the funnier (okay, it's one of those "laugh so you don't cry" kind of situations) things I've seen regarding the IHS is a letter in the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. Now, I'm going to butcher this, totally not verbatim, but it's worth a look if you ever go there. They have a letter from the IHS written to a man who could not prove his Indian blood, his relatives were dead. He was man raised on a reservation, if my memory serves me. The letter that came back to him said essentially:

"After careful consideration, we have come to the decision that you are not an Indian."

I can only imagine what that man's reaction must have been to finding out that after all those years of living as a Native man, the government decided he wasn't one after all. I would love for them to come and tell me I am not a Tlingit woman after all - but they would have to tell me what I actually was, instead. As it is, they do not recognize that I am actually a quarter Dena'ina Athabascan - they say it's all Tlingit. If they say so, it must be true... but maybe they just misplaced those records...

No comments: