Marching for honor

By By Ana Breton and By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

An estimated 600 people, including U students, protested in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday in defense of urban American Indian health-care rights and funding.

Representatives from various American-Indian tribes and supporters from student groups at the U took part in the “Walk of Honor,” which started at the Indian Walk-In Center near the Franklin Covey Field and ended with a rally at the Bennett Federal Building.

The march protested President Bush’s 2007 budget proposal to cut funding to the 34 health-care clinics that aid American Indians across the nation.

Utah’s Walk-In Center, which is the main clinic for American Indians in Salt Lake City, would suffer an approximate 80 to 90 percent cut from its $1.5 million budget.

Members of the Inter-Tribal Student Association and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, two prominent American-Indian student groups at the U, were present at the protest.

“A lot of times, we don’t understand what is going on and how something like this can affect other people,” said Sheldon Spotted Elk, former vice president of ITSA and a senior in social work. “We have to show that we care so we can make a difference.”

American-Indian students at the U are particularly worried because of the Associated Students of the University of Utah Senate’s recent resolution mandating that all students show proof of health insurance before registering for Fall Semester classes in 2007.

The proposals would make it harder for these students to receive health-care insurance and an education, said Robert Gallegos, president of the Raza Political Action Coalition (Raz-Pac).

“There’s certain benefits offered by the Indian Walk-In Center that would be removed,” he explained. “The Walk-In Center doesn’t just cover health care, but they also help educate the Native Americans about their culture.”

Mayor Rocky Anderson spoke at the rally after the march and said it would be unlikely for students and their families to apply at other health clinics if the Walk-In Center’s budget is canceled.

“Native American health programs provide culturally sensitive services not available elsewhere,” he said.

Besides providing health care, urban American-Indian programs also raise awareness about the needs in the American-Indian populations, Anderson said.