Printer Friendly

Walking in two worlds: Native Americans and the VR system.

This article, especially the introduction, presents to the reader an overview of American Indian life to assist the vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselor in understanding the Indian VR client. No one article can contain particulars for each individual tribe; the statements made here are designed to be descriptive of the majority of the Indian population that VR counselors might encounter. The terms Native American are used interchangeably.


Walking in two worlds, the American Indian world and the non-Indian world, is a phrase that describes almost every American Indian life. Sometimes the two worlds clash, sometimes they can be harmonious but, for the most part, walking between them requires a balancing act of cultures. Within the Indian world there are many tribes, the members of which cope daily with the two world environment in which they live. Each tribe is a separate entity and as such has its own traditions, culture, language, lifestyle, and spiritual values. Despite the diversity among tribes, however, there are many experiences and reactions to outside culture domination that are common to all tribes. Results of the common experiences and reactions have been called "post colonization stress disorder" (PCSD), a set of behaviors and attitudes that indicate physical, psychosocial, and spiritual declines that seem epidemic among Indian people nationwide. Common physical problems related to PCSD are poor health and chronic disability, poor nutrition, alcoholism and drug dependency, and staggering rates of diabetes. Environmental problems include substandard housing, poor sanitation, unsafe and unreliable water supplies, unimproved roads, and isolation in rural/remote areas (NAU-UA, 1987). Many of the problems listed here appear to be the result of abject poverty, poor oversight of treaty rights by the U.S. Government, loss of hope, feelings of being helpless, of shattered cultures and religions, unabated grief, and depression: characteristics that are commonly found among prisoners of war. Excellent reading on these topics are Vine Deloria Jr.'s book, Custer Died For Your Sins (1970), and Angie Debo's And Still The Waters Run (1940).

For an American Indian, the preferred status of many is to be a full blood Indian of one tribe, come from a reservation, know your culture, and speak your language. However, if an Indian is full blood and comes from a reservation, chances are that he or she will come from an environment very similar to that described above. Also, the boarding school may have been his educational environment, an atmosphere that was not conducive to native cultural preservation. Boarding school educations stripped many tribes of their language by forcing the English language upon the children. The boarding schools were said to educate the Indians, but many Indians believe the real purpose was to sever the ties between children and their language and culture. Certainly the education was poor, often carried out in prison-like systems, where corporal punishment was used frequently and speaking your own language often brought dire results.

Half bloods truly have a foot in each world. They often endure the "neither" experience; being neither Indian nor white, not really accepted by either, but yet part of both. Half bloods hear "He's half white" as a derogatory statement from Indians, and "He's half Indian" from non-Indians. Quarter bloods have the advantage of being more in the " favored" class of American society (being mostly white), but the advantages become disadvantages in the Indian world if the quarter blood has fair hair and light eyes. Many of the quarter bloods choose the non-Indian path, but many cling to the Indian way, where their physical appearance may create problems.

Mixed bloods are a diverse group; some of them may choose not to admit their Indian heritage while others hold it close in their hearts. Those that are involved in the Indian world are often fiercely proud of their heritage and are easily offended if they think they are classed as a wannabe: a non-Indian who wants to be Indian and whose "great-grandmother was a real Indian Princess." Other wannabe names are "fake," "plastic," or "New-Age" Indians; often they steal and then prostitute traditional ceremonies, sell seats at sweats or ceremonies for cash, or copy spiritual rituals for their own gain.

There is another facet of the Indian picture that state VR counselors may have to deal with, a group who call themselves Split Feathers. These are adult Indians who, in childhood, were removed from the tribes and placed in white homes. The removal split them between their two cultures, thus the name, Split Feathers. The adults in this group are likely to have a lot of anger and frustration, feelings of being betrayed, being a "nobody," and they often abuse alcohol or drugs. "I don't know who I am" is a frequent statement, many saying they do not even know what tribe they come from. In a recent study (Locust, 1994), the majority of Split Feathers who responded to a national survey noted that they had failed in school, had problems with employment, had alcohol problems, were antisocial, and felt that they didn't belong anywhere. The pain caused by the loss of their culture was overwhelming; it is no wonder that many of them reported having been in jail or prison. A state counselor attempting to work with a Split Feather needs to understand the pain and to help the person heal inside as a first step toward employment.

Sometimes the pain an Indian suffers--because of historical events that render his/her personal identity incomplete and fragmented in terms of heritage and culture--leaves its mark in rage and depression. These feelings were well stated by one participant of a workshop on American Indian and the Vocational Rehabilitation Services held in Florida (Locust, 1992): "Indianness is in your heart, not in the color of your skin or the shape of your nose. Tribal groups, especially the smaller tribes and splinter groups, were near extinction, and marrying a non-Indian may have been the only solution to prevent genocide. That created half-bloods, and from then on the blood quantum fluctuated according to whether there was someone from your tribe that was marriageable. Tribes were forced into those situations, they did not choose it. Now we, the descendants, are penalized for those choices. Mixed bloods are suspect and degraded by whites and Indians alike, but if I walk the Old Way, if I maintain my heritage in my heart and my life, I know what I am on the inside."

The historical and current status of American Indians is hurtful and depressing not only for the people who live it, but for the non-Indians who sympathize with them. However, there are strengths in Indian cultures that have persisted over the decades. One of them is the innate spiritual beliefs that have survived despite religious persecution and repression. The 10 points that follow appear to be the foundation on which many tribal religions and philosophies are based, although each tribe is distinct and different from other tribes and each group has its own way of expressing its beliefs. There is no set of beliefs that can be said as absolutes for all Indian cultures, as time and outside influences have changed things, but the 10 concepts are common to most tribal groups.

1. American Indians have a belief in a Supreme Creator. In this belief system are lesser beings also.

2. Man is a three-fold being made up of a body, mind, and spirit.

3. Plants and animals, like humans, are part of the spirit world. The spirit world exists side-by-side and intermingled with the physical world.

4. The spirit existed before it came into a physical body and will exist after the body dies.

5. Illness affects the mind and spirit as well as the body.

6. Wellness is harmony in body, mind, and spirit.

7. Unwellness is disharmony in body, mind, and spirit.

8. Natural unwellness is caused by the violation of a sacred or tribal taboo.

9. Unnatural unwellness is caused by witchcraft.

10. Each of us is responsible for his/ her own wellness.

American Indian families also have something called Standing Proud: cultural values that have survived, or the tribes would have vanished long ago. Standing Proud has always been one of the American Indian's greatest strength. Each tribe has its own set of values that is regarded within that culture as desirable and fosters strength within an individual. The following list is a general overview of those values most likely to be found to some degree in the environments of urban and reservation Indians.

My family, clan, and tribe think well of me.

* I am sharing.

* I show concern for others.

* I help others.

* I protect those around me.

* I have respect for others.

I provide for my family, clan, and tribe.

* My family has food.

* My family has shelter.

* My family has clothing.

* My family has transportation.

I honor my ancestors by retaining the Old Ways.

* I participate in tribal ceremonies.

* I participate in tribal religious rituals.

* I maintain proper garments for ceremonies and rituals.

* I observe tribal customs.

* I contribute to the tribal ceremonies and rituals.

I do not seek to rise above others.

* I am not a showoff with what I have.

* I am not boastful of myself.

* I do not compete with others except in sports.

* I am not a know-it-all.

I walk in harmony with myself,

* my family,

* my clan,

* my tribe,

* my mother Earth,

* my universe,

* my Creator.

These are strengths that counselors can use to assist an Indian VR client. They are the basis of sound psychological wellness and personal power to overcome many of the characteristics of PCSD.

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors and American Indians

State VR counselors are likely to have on their caseload at least one Native American who walks in two worlds. Because of that likelihood, the introduction to this article was included to provide the counselor a glimpse into the Indian part of the two worlds. The American Indians a counselor may come in contact with are likely to reflect the PCSD syndrome and the additional stress of urban life and unemployment, and also the internal strength of spiritual teachings and family values. Many rural/reservation Indians leave their homes where jobs are scarce for urban areas where employment is more promising. While the job market is better, the cultural gap between Indians and non-Indians is often greater. Having a disability while trying to walk in two worlds can increase the stress tenfold. Having a counselor that understands PCSD, who is respectful of a client's heritage and culture, and who has the support and assistance of the VR administration is imperative for a successful VR closure on an American Indian (Locust, 1993).

If we look at the Indian issue from the other side of the fence, we find circumstances surrounding the VR counselor that frequently do not lend themselves to flexibility in terms of working with culturally diverse people. For example, if a counselor wished to observe courteous behaviors with an Indian client, the time spent with that one client would double or triple what might be necessary for other clients. Because of large caseloads, some counselors may not be able to do that, which means that they are seen as discourteous and rude to an Indian client who probably will not return, or that if they do follow traditional protocol, other clients may be cut short on time. For this reason, it is necessary that a counselor working with the Indian population have the full support and assistance of the VR administrative staff. It is ironic that none of the issues discussed in this article are new, as we can see from the following statement written nearly 20 years ago: "The greatest problems facing state Vocational Rehabilitation counselors in their efforts to improve services to Native Americans are that (1) the Native Americans come from different cultures from the counselors, and (2) most Native people live in rural/remote areas."

This statement was made in the 1978 Annual Report of the Rehabilitation Services Administration and ended with this comment: "If there is a single, important step that RSA should consider in order to improve VR services to Native Americans, that step is developing ways to take VR to the (reservation) Indians" (Schuurman, 1991).

Despite legislative and service delivery efforts, this statement is as valid today as it was in 1978. While the statement indicates a concern for reservation Indians, it also has a bearing on urban Indians, because specific VR programs are provided for reservations but urban Indians must access state services. As of September 1, 1995, there were only 27 tribes (out of more than 500 recognized tribes/villages) that had VR programs (St. Clair, 1995). These 27 programs are part of Section 130 of Title I of the Rehabilitation Act and are commonly called Tribal 130 VR Programs. Section 130 was added to Title I despite language in Section 101 that addressed this issue: ". . . the State shall provide vocational rehabilitation services to handicapped American Indians residing in the State to the same extent as the State provides such services to other significant segments of the population of individuals with handicaps residing in the State."

The "to the same extent..." clause and Section 130 opened the door for expanded services to American Indians. However, the Section 130 Programs focus on tribal lands, while the "same extent" clause still covers the urban Indian populations.

Native Americans in the Vocational Rehabilitation System

Statistics on Native Americans as early as 1980 show that there is a trend away from reservation life to urban life. The 1980 U.S. Bureau of the Census reported that only 46 percent of American Indians lived in "identified Indian areas," leaving 54 percent that reside in rural/urban areas within state boundaries. The 1990 Census reported the total population of American Indians at 1.946 million, indicating that approximately 1 million American Indians are not served by Tribal 130 VR Programs but fall within the work area of state vocational rehabilitation services. Of that million, we can expect that between 26.9 percent (Schacht, 1993) and 22.6 percent (Fowler, 1995) have a disability.

Despite the "same extent" clause, many states did not include American Indians when issues of diversity were discussed. In the 1980's, inclusion of Native people in VR services was overlooked in some states; considered not essential in others, because "We have no Indians in our state"; or the tribal people were still considered "wards of the government and, therefore, outside the responsibility of states" (Locust, 1988). None of the three reasons for non-inclusion are valid. How does a state overlook the indigenous citizens in its population? Would ignore come closer to the truth? The state that reported having "no Indians" in fact had more than 35,000. However, many tribal groups are small splinter groups of larger tribes, especially those tribes that were removed from their original land or the remnants of tribes that have almost vanished. They still exist as Native people, often without recognition from state or federal governments, many times having to fight for their right to exist as American Indians.

The term "wards of the government" is archaic; American Indians have been citizens of the United States since 1924 (U.S. Congress), are citizens of the state where they live, and are citizens of their tribe. Many state agencies still use the "wards of the government" phrase, either to absolve themselves of responsibility for American Indians or because they don't know any better. Most agencies consider themselves the "payer of last resort," meaning that every means of funding a service for individuals must be researched and exhausted until that agency has no choice but to fund it from their coffers. For American Indians, this means that the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Services, tribal governments, and other such possible source of funds are researched and contacted--a process that often takes months--while a non-Indian would not have so lengthy a wait.

Unfortunately, the general population's attitude towards American Indians today has not changed greatly in 500 years. Because of religious overtones in the colonization of the Americas, the indigenous people already here were viewed as inferior beings in great need of civilization and religious training. Too frequently, service providers today feel that the Indians must be cleansed of their Indian heathenism, must be molded in the likeness of the white society, and that the metamorphosis from Indian to Euro-American must be accomplished before their programs can be of any assistance. The concept appears to be that if an Indian looks, dresses, and acts like a non-Indian he will no longer be a savage but will become homogenized into mainstream American. Sadly, some service providers see this as a necessary preservice step. For example, an Indian man, dignified and proud of his long braids, was told that vocational rehabilitation services for him would not begin until he cut his hair. The reasoning was that the counselor was not likely to get an employer to hire an Indian man with braids, and since the goal for vocational rehabilitation was employment for the client, the client had to be employable. An American Indian man with braids was not considered "employable" by the counselor, so, therefore, the Indian was required to cut his hair (which he refused to do). In this case the Indian was caught between two cultures, and the counselor was caught between the humanistic desire to help and the need to keep his job, which meant to perform well in his position (i.e., obtain successful VR closures).

The arena of American Indian VR is one of complexities and contradictions for both the Indian client and the non-Indian counselor. Many of the obstacles to appropriate services can be removed when knowledge is provided and understanding takes place.

A Native American Outreach Program

A number of articles exist in the literature that explain the how's and why's of dealing with American Indians. This section will focus on how one state actually reached out to increase its services to the Indian people. That state was Florida, where the American Indian population in 1980 was 19,316 and by 1990 had reached 36,335 (Lang, 1992). The Seminole tribe in south Florida has federal recognition, but most of the Indian population in the state are urban dwellers. After some preliminary pro-Indian work had been done that proved the Indian population was in need of VR services, the state began to look closer at its Native people.

The authors of this article met in 1988 at an American Indian Employment and Training Conference, where one (Jerry Lang, who at that time was on the staff of the Florida State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation) was an attendee and the other (Carol Locust) spoke about American Indians and rehabilitation issues at a workshop on American Indians with disabilities for the Native American Research and Training Center, University of Arizona, Tucson.

Among the many topics at this conference was a new national organization of American Indians with disabilities--the WOUNDED EAGLES--a name they had given themselves. Mr. Lang's concern was for the urban and rural Indians who were tribal people but had no locally recognized landbase or reservation. Many of the WOUNDED EAGLES in Florida were from tribes other than those in the southeast, such as Sioux, Crow, or Ojibwe. Many of them spoke English as a second language, and nearly all of them were reluctant to seek help from government agencies. Some were members of remnant bands, descendants of refugees from the removal process that had very little of their culture left, no land, and no recognition of their tribal roots. These people clearly were in great need of rehabilitation services, yet very little had been done to reach them.

The authors worked out the design of a Florida outreach program for VR focused on tribal people. The immediate need was to educate state VR counselors about their American Indian population. This was imperative because it would be counterproductive to reach out to the Indian population without first training the counselors how to work effectively with them. The Native American Rehabilitation Outreach Program was implemented in March 1989 with designated counselors who had been in the cross-cultural training targeted as the "Indian outreach person" in each of the state's eight VR districts. Also, in response to counselors' requests, an Indian liaison person was hired to assist the counselor in identifying Indian people who needed VR assistance. This person became the first Native American Technician, which will be discussed later.

The first training session included American Indians from the area as well as VR counselors. It also included facts and figures about the Native population in Florida, such as how many Indians, of which tribes, and where they were located. Some of the counselors had never heard a tribal language spoken, so a session on linguistics was included. The cultural aspects of beliefs was another topic of discussion, and a general outline of how counselors might proceed in working with persons from another culture.

From the opening ceremony, it was apparent that this was not going to be a usual state VR workshop. At times there were more Indians than VR people in the workshop, and often the issues under discussion had no (apparent) relationship to vocational rehabilitation. Unsuspecting non-Indians were often caught up in a storm of words, not sure who was speaking to whom, or about what, often feeling the uneasiness and frustration of tribal members, knowing that VR had been forgotten but having no clue as to why. However, it was clear that the VR issues were related to culture and that Indian identity was the key to the discussions. One of the WOUNDED EAGLES put it this way:

"A few workshops cannot erase 500 years of history between the Native population of this continent and emigrating Europeans."

What, the VR counselors needed to know, has 500 years of history got to do with vocational rehabilitation? The answer was "nothing" if one views VR services as an agency activity and not a counselor-client activity. But if VR is a helping agency intricately intertwined with the lives, homes, and communities of the clients it serves, then 500 years of history has a great deal to do with vocational rehabilitation.

The VR counselors, frustrated because they seemed to be faced with the same yawning chasm of not understanding that they had been struggling with for years, asked questions. There was still a barrier to VR services for Indian people with disabilities, a barrier that neither group wanted. The counselors were asking for answers, and the WOUNDED EAGLES began to talk.

The following table are statements composed from comments of Workshop participants. The statements have been arranged for clarity and brevity of this report.

Outcomes of the Native American Outreach Program

What was the outcome of that meeting and others like it? First, an increased awareness of Indian people on the part of VR counselors. Second, new knowledge for tribal members who did not know what VR was about. Third, the Native American Technician (NAT) Program was begun; and fourth, a dramatic increase in the number of American Indians on VR caseloads. "Vocational Rehabilitation has improved greatly," the counselors reported a year later. "We have more personnel, our services have been expanded, more categories have been included so we can serve more people. We have started the NAT Program in some areas. We think this is a good beginning."

The WOUNDED EAGLES responded that, as a whole, Florida's vocational rehabilitation counselors were sensitive, caring, and hard working people. The vocational rehabilitation services offered by the state were generally adequate. There now exists a loosely-knit form of partnership between some of the state's VR districts and Indian people in those districts. That partnership could be strengthened to benefit both tribal people and the VR counselors.

From the discussions, discourse, and some disagreements during the workshops we conducted in Florida in 1990-94, four major statements emerged:

* Most Indian people are reluctant to trust non-Indians.

* The majority of Florida's VR counselors were non-Indians.

* Indians are far more likely to trust another Indian than a non-Indian.

* The logical solution, if VR services to Indians were to be expanded, was to have a tribal member act as a liaison between tribal members and the state VR counselors. That liaison position became the Native American Technician, or NAT, that Mr. Watkins wrote about in February 1995:

"In March 1989, the Native American Rehabilitation Program was implemented in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The purpose of this program was to provide outreach services that targeted disabled Native Americans in need of vocational rehabilitation services."

Ironically, in the year prior to program implementation only one Native American client received services statewide. Effective December 31,1994, some 260 Native American clients were served. Of this number, 204 were served in districts that utilized Native American Technicians.

The Native American Technician Program

The fact that Indian clients respond better to an Indian counselor is no secret. This point was validated by a preliminary program using a prototype of the NAT position initiated in 1988. The program contract was with the Holmes Valley Band of Muscogee Creeks; the first coordinator was Peggy Venagle, assisted by Charlotte Kirkland. While the program was short-lived, the overwhelming response indicated the intense need for programs of this nature. For that reason, the Florida State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency established a pilot NAT Program in 1990. The NAT is an Indian person from the community and area he/she will serve, who is responsible for outreach to the Indian people in that area and hired with VR funds but through a local Indian organization. Because the NAT has ties to the communities, doors are opened that might otherwise be closed. Having an adjunct counselor who is part of the Indian community has greatly increased Indian referrals.

The counselors insist that NAT's need to be well trained in VR counseling. Once hired, the NAT is assigned to a particular counselor who assists his/ her NAT to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to represent VR adequately among Indian people. "A preservice training of approximately 2 weeks includes reading VR manuals, becoming familiar with VR words and meanings, going over intake forms, and getting acquainted with all VR counselors in the district," explained one NAT at the workshop. "These activities assure that the NAT has a good understanding of the things that VR can and cannot do. The NAT then goes out into the Indian community to find out if there are any individuals who need services but have not been identified by the VR system. The NAT becomes the link between that WOUNDED EAGLE and the VR counselor; he/she is encouraged to enroll in classes leading to qualification as a state VR counselor. NAT's must have support of all the counselors, not just the one he/she is assigned to. A NAT's assigned counselor is a partner, not a boss; and the NAT, the counselor, and the WOUNDED EAGLE work together to establish client goals."

NAT's hold a unique position between the state VR and tribal groups. A NAT was hired in a contract between the State of Florida, Department of Labor and Employment Security, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and an Indian tribe, organization, or incorporation. Details of the contract were spelled out in a legal document and the NAT position description was developed. This was truly a field-initiated pilot program; we (the authors) had to feel our way around many of the technical obstacles, and much of the wording both in the contract and the position description has undergone evolution. For example, some of the contracts now include the opportunity for NAT's to acquire additional training and education toward becoming a VR counselor.

The NAT contracts, along with the usual state assurances, contain attachments that identify what is being contracted for, such as "The such-and-such Indians of Florida enters into this contract with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to provide the following services to Native American clients of the agency: outreach and referral, case management, and follow-up services." Under that are listed the explicit duties and details of the agreement. In this manner, the NAT is technically hired by the Indian community, to serve the Indian population, while his/her salary is being provided by Florida VR. This arrangement was developed because of the hiring requirements the state places on the personnel directly in its hire. The NAT becomes responsible both to the state VR and the tribal entity through which the hiring took place.

The contract aspect of the NAT program provides for persons from a culture--who have knowledge and understanding of the culture which VR counselors lack--to provide that knowledge and understanding as an extension of the VR counselor's program. Some NAT's often go and are readily received in rural/remote areas of Florida's woods, forests, and swamps/glades. Other NAT's work in communities or urban Indian settings, making contacts with persons who otherwise would go unnoticed and unserved. Most NAT's make themselves known at local Pow-Wow's, ceremonials, celebrations, and family gatherings, passing around informational brochures and cards. Many of the people they talk to want to know what VR is. When they find out, many of them can offer several names of people who might need help. And they are not reluctant to do so, because the NAT is one of them.

Although the NAT Program has been very effective, there are few NAT's and thousands of Indians. In VR districts without NAT's, VR counselors and Indian clients must work together to establish appropriate services. The years of meetings have revealed that many counselors, especially new ones, are still hesitant to work with Indian clients and to go into Indian communities. The reason appeared to be the same as before: a lack of cultural knowledge (i.e., they did not feel they knew how to interact with Indians). To remove that barrier, ongoing special training was provided for individual VR counselors who then become "liaison counselors," thus committing themselves to take on extra duty, extra learning (such as what is written in the introduction), and the challenge of cross-cultural VR counseling in order to fill the gap where no NAT was employed in the district. Although having NAT's in place in all VR districts in the state is desirable, it is also important to understand that VR funding levels are a factor in hiring more NAT's and that the NAT Program is still in its pilot phase. Therefore, alternate approaches such as liaison counselors must be used to reach WOUNDED EAGLES until more NAT's are available.

There is one person who has the unique title of being the first NAT to be hired in Florida. This distinction goes to Dawn Mims Praytor, whose connection with her tribe and persons from other tribes in the area and their willingness to talk to another Indian person has created an impressive number of new Indian VR clients that is still growing.

Another person, Vicki Welch, has developed her own Indian VR outreach program and is rapidly filling the gaps in services to Native people.

Expansion of the NAT Program

The NAT Program is still expanding in Florida. We are working with other states in setting up their own NAT Programs. However, we ran into other problems when we started to expand the NAT concept into other states. The first handbook on NAT's was developed specifically for Florida and, consequently, we found that some of the technical aspects of contracting were not compatible with the contractual needs of other states and tribes. We are currently attempting to produce a training manual illustrating examples of several different states' contracts or Memorandums of Agreement that can serve as guidelines for all states where NAT's might be needed. One such state is Oregon, which recently hired its first NAT using a different form of contract. In Oregon, the NAT not only works with off-reservation people, but acts as a liaison between state VR and several of the tribes. The NAT Program must be flexible to cover the needs in Alaska as well as in Hawaii, or in Pacific Basin territories that have diverse populations. Contractual agreements we provide as guides for the development of other tribal NAT programs must be just as flexible and must include issues of tribal sovereignty. Most tribes are chartered under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934. Some are non-IRA government structures; others report some other governmental status (such as treaty tribes, executive order, traditional forms of government, 280 status, or Alaskan Natives' Congressional Action status).


Native Americans are unique in that they have distinct cultures that differ from the average VR client. The VR counselor needs to be aware of these cultural differences. Indian caseloads may be assigned to specially trained1 non-Indian counselors if no Indian counselor is available, or a state agency may wish to establish a NAT program to provide inclusion of Native people in VR services. The Native American Technician Program is a structured, contractual service of a state VR program whereby tribal people are employed via a subcontract with a tribe or tribal entity to provide outreach to American Indian people with disabilities. Having a person from a particular cultural group work with other individuals of that culture is both programmatically and economically effective.

The NAT program has proven to be as great a benefit to the Indian communities as it is to the VR program. To have the number of clients from one particular culture jump from 1 to 260 in 4 years is rather miraculous. To say that the majority of the increase (204) came from districts that utilized NAT's indicates that the NAT Program is a viable method of community outreach to a diverse population. at


1. Debo, Angie (1940). And still the waters run. Originally published in 1940 by Princeton University Press, first printing in paperback by University of Oklahoma Press in 1984. Dawes Commission, pp. 21-60.

2. Deloria, Vine, Jr. (1970). Custer died for your sins. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. Chapter 3, The disastrous policy of termination.

3. Fowler, L., et al. (1995). American Indian disability legislation project: Findings of a national survey of tribal governments, p. 2.

4. Lang, Jerry (1992, May). Report of the Florida workshop on VR and American Indians. Tampa.

5. Locust, C. (1988). Report of the workshop on vocational rehabilitation for disabled American Indians. Seattle, WA, August 30-Sept.1.

6. Locust, C. (1992, May). Report on the Florida State vocational rehabilitation workshop on American Indians with disabilities. Tampa.

7. Locust, C. (1993, June). Report on the American Indian rehabilitation workshop. Part of the Florida State vocational rehabilitation conference on persons with mental disabilities. Clearwater Beach.

8. Locust, C. (1994, March). Split feathers: Adult American Indians who were adopted into non-Indian homes as children. Presentation made at the Arizona State Indian Child Welfare Conference, Tucson.

9. Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona (NAU and UA). (1987). A study of the special problems and needs of American Indians with handicaps both on and off the reservation: Report prepared for U.S. Department of Education. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services Administration. Flagstaff.

10. Schuurman, D. (1991). Report on services for American Indians. Rehabilitation Services Administration Region IX, San Francisco. Unpublished report, p.1.

11. Schacht, R.M. (1993). Demographics of American Indians with disabilities. American Indian Research and Training Center, Flagstaff, AZ.

12. St. Clair, D. (1995, Sept.) Report from the consortia of administrators of Native American rehabilitation. University of Arizona, NARTC.

13. United States Census Bureau. (1980,1990). Population statistics. Washington, DC.

14. United States Congress (1924). Civil Rights Act. Granted American Indians citizenship in the United States. Washington, DC.


VR Counselors: Indian Clients:

We work with disabled people We are Indian first. That we have first. Their ethnic origin a disability is secondary. is secondary.

If we had to learn about every How can we get more time for the ethnic group we work with, counselors to learn about diverse we would not have time to do cultures so they can be more what we are hired to do: VR effective in their VR work? work.

We might lose sight of the fact I am not a client because I am that we work with disabilities, Indian. I am a client because I not Indians. VR is not there to have a disability. But I was address cultural issues. Indian before I was disabled.

You can't expect counselors to We are not asking you to become get into culture that much. experts on Indian culture. We We serve too many people; there are asking to be treated with is not enough time to dignity and respect by becoming learn about cultures. aware of our traditions and

customs. Learning about our

cultures will help you and me to

communicate better.

We see a lot of clients that are Some Indian people may not want not motivated to work. Indians don't to be rehabilitated, but, as a appear to be motivated, often don't people, we don't show our emotions keep appointments, don't show any often. Motivation is in the heart, signs they even want to be and different cultures have rehabilitated. different ways of behavioral

expression. Also, transportation

to keep appointments is a critical

problem. Many of our people don't

have cars or access to transportation.

Is there a lot of difference between Indians from reservations who are new Indians who come from reservations to urban life need a lot more support. and those in urban areas? They usually seek out local Indian

centers. Sometimes they need someone

to show them the ropes of living in

the city.

Do Indian veterans feel comfortable (After much discussion). Yes, often talking with VR counselors who are a veteran feels comfortable talking not Indian but who are veterans? with another veteran even if that

veteran is white. There is a special

bond and honor among warriors that

crosses racial barriers.

Sometimes some of your traditions Ask your Indian client. Each tribe may conflict with what we need to has its own traditions, so the do as VR counselors. Then what do client would be the one to answer we do? that question.

We have to try to get you a job, We have a question for you: Is the and jobs are available in the WASP goal of VR to find people employment? community. I know you feel that Is it to get everyone into the WASP every step you take into the white job market? world means you are giving up Give us someone to work with us something of your Indian world, who knows about Indians, like another but what else can we do Indian. I know I have to sacrifice for you? something to get a job. I am willing

to compromise, but let me choose

where I will compromise. Another

Indian would understand. Then we can

work out all the details.

Are you referring to the community That is who we mean, a community liaison person? An Indian person liaison person who knows who we are from an Indian community who works and how we feel. You need to hire with the VR counselors? As you know, more of them to serve us in other we hired an Indian person who served districts. They need to be there as a community liaison person in one as mediators for us and helpers for of the districts. you.

Do you think that having a liaison Not all, but most problems. The VR person will solve all VR problems counselors need to learn more about in working with Indian people? our culture and our traditions. You

need to have fewer cases so you can

do a good job with the cases you carry.

The liaisons can help make your

workload lighter, easier.

Time is limited in working with any If the state is more interested in the client. Caseloads increase yearly; numbers of closures you can get rather they don't decrease. When we took than the quality of service to clients, time to come to this workshop, we then there is a real problem at the state took time away from our clients. level. What you have learned This is some of the most important here--respect, honor, and dignity--will information I have had benefit all people, not just Indians. in years because of what we have But it is of no value if you have no learned here. But it doesn't give chance to use it. time or decrease my workload. A liaison person between the VR In fact, it only increases it. How system me more and Indian people would will we get all the paperwork help us learn how to approach the VR done? road. And until we can start having

cultural sensitivity taught to

VR counselors at the college level,

we must have workshops such as this

one. We as Indian people need to learn

how to cope with our frustration, fear,

and anger toward the WASP world.

We want to help Indians in VR; we There are some fine VR leaders here have always wanted to do a good job today. We are honored to have met in our work. The injustices of them. We honor you counselors the past do not have to continue for your hard work. We honor those into tomorrow. We are encourage who are starting a new day in VR that we have state administrators for their Indian people. that care and that American Indians have met with us.

Dr. Locust is the Director of Training at the Native American Research and Training Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, and Mr. Lang is a program manager for Native American Programs, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Tallahassee, Florida.
COPYRIGHT 1996 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Cultural Diversity, part 2; vocational rehabilitation
Author:Lang, Jerry
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Jun 22, 1996
Previous Article:Understanding Heart Disease.
Next Article:After substance abuse treatment, then what?

Related Articles
Arizona RSA interactions with Native American populations.
Service, resource and training needs of American Indian vocational rehabilitation projects.
Traditional Native American values: conflict or concordance in rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation Cultural Diversity Initiative: a regional survey of cultural diversity within CILs.
After substance abuse treatment, then what?
Embracing diversity in rehabilitation in Pacific cultures.
Developing a VR program on the Tohono O'Odham reservation.
American Indian vocational rehabilitation services: a unique approach.
Vocational rehabilitation outcomes of African American adults with specific learning disabilities.
One-Stop Shopping and Vocational Rehabilitation.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters