During the 2018 Tribal Self-Governance Annual Conference in New Mexico in April, TCC Chief/Chairman Victor Joseph had an opportunity to talk with Indian Health Services (IHS) Director Rear Admiral Michael D. Weahkee about the lack of water and sewer in our rural communities.
Overall, there are more than 3,300 homes throughout Alaska that do not have running water and sewer. The IHS Sanitation Facilities Construction Program, an integral component of the IHS disease prevention activity, has carried out authorities since 1960 using funds appropriated for Sanitation Facilities Construction to provide potable water and waste disposal facilities for American Indian/Alaska Native people.
Chief Joseph emphasized the need to prioritize the IHS Sanitation Facilities Program and work with other Departments that support water and sanitation programs to work with Tribes and Tribal Programs to remove the honey buckets from homes and clinics.
“It not OK that our elders need to go out when it’s 50 below,” explained Chief Joseph, “It’s not OK for our children to have to get up in the middle of the night to use a slop bucket, that has to get hauled out in the morning and dumped in an outhouse.”
Last year, TCC hosted the visitation of former Acting HIS Director Chris Buchanan to tour the communities of Allakaket and Rampart, where he was able to hear first-hand accounts from tribal members regarding their lack of water and sewer. After the visit, there was an 86% increase in IHS funds, about 90 million dollars. Chief Joseph extended the same invitation to Director Weahkee this year.
Director Weahkee responded in agreement, “We need to go beyond advocacy. We do have partners that can make a difference,” he said, “From IHS’s perspective, we will partner with everyone we can.”
Chief Joseph asked that action is taken, with the bottom line being a simple one: “We need to have good, clean running water in our homes.”
Within the TCC region, there are 13 communities that do not have running water.