Benefits and services available to native americans

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Question:

What benefits are available to native americans because of their federal tribal status?
~Submitted by Katie D.

Answer:

Indian Affairs, through its government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes, carries out the Federal Government’s unique and continuing relationship with and responsibility to tribes and Indian people. Indian Affairs programs support and assist federally recognized tribes in the development of tribal governments, strong economies, and quality programs.

The scope of Indian Affairs programs is extensive and includes a range of services comparable to the programs of state and local government, e.g., education, social services, law enforcement, courts, real estate services, agriculture and range management, and resource protection.

 

Native American Healthcare

Many Federal agencies other than the Indian Affairs have special programs to serve the American Indian population, i.e., the Indian Health Service (IHS), an adjunct of the Public Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The IHS provides health care services through a network of reservation-based hospitals and clinics. Besides standard medical care, the agency has established programs that specialize in maternal and child health, mental health, substance abuse, home health care, nutrition, etc.

Often, IHS services are provided primarily by nurses and nurse-practitioners, especially in rural reservation areas. There are few doctors available, and often reservation residents must wait months to see a specialist for their particular health need. Most specialized care is administered only in IHS facilities near a major urban population, and reservation residents may have to travel hundreds of miles to get the care they need.

Since only 1 person in 10 has a vehicle on most reservations, and getting together gas money for a long trip is a big deal for impoverished people, just getting there can be an immense problem.

Housing and Reservation Infrastructure

The Administration for Native Americans, another agency within HHS, administers programs aimed at strengthening tribal governments and supporting the social and economic development of reservation communities. Other agencies of the Federal Government that serves the special needs of Indian people include the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Agriculture, Education, Labor, Commerce and Energy.

A shortage of available housing is a common problem on most reservations, and often supporting infrastructures, such as connections to electricity, running water, and sewers are practically non-existant on many reservations to this day. Often housing designed for a family of four is shared with an extended family of 10 or 15 relatives.

General assistance for needy native americans

All American Indians & Alaska Natives, whether they live on or off reservations, are eligible (like all other citizens who meet eligibility requirements) to receive services provided by the state in which they live, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Food Stamp Program and the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Native Americans DO NOT automatically receive a free college education.

Despite a strong desire to earn a degree, many American Indian students find themselves in a position where they cannot easily pay for school, even with the help of federal student financial aid.

Many tribes do have scholarship programs based on tribal enrollment, need, academic merit, leadership skills, sports,  or a combination of these, but just like other scholarships offered to the general public, prospective students must first apply for the scholarship and meet the required terms of that particular scholarship, then compete with hundreds of other hopeful students to receive one of the limited number of scholarships.

Some reservations do have a branch college campus or a Junior College run by the tribe on the reservation. These are mostly two year programs similar to many Community Colleges off reservation that are open to the general public, with a strong emphasis on limited study courses, such as trades, agriculture, and business courses.

While some tribes do have full scholarships for tribal members to tribally run institutions, this is not true on most reservations and doesn’t mean native students get a free ride to public and private colleges outside of the reservation.

Most private colleges do have scholarship programs for minority students, including native americans, but these account for only 35% of all scholarships and native American specific scholarships only make up 1.6% of the total scholarships available each year, according to a study done in 2007. The average scholarship award is around $2,500, while one year of college can now cost as much as $50,000 at some prestigious colleges.

Caucasian students receive more than three-quarters (76%) of all institutional merit-based scholarship and grant funding, even though they represent less than two-thirds (62%) of the student population. Caucasian students are 40% more likely to win private scholarships than minority students. Caucasian students receive more than three times as much in merit-based grant and private scholarship funding as minority students.