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American Indian Advisory Council Minutes
November 17th, 2004


Welcome and Introductions – Susie Yellowhorse Jensen, Southern California Indian Center (SCIS). Commerce.

Guest Speaker

  • Jim Warne, San Diego State University (SDSU)
    Interwork Institute

Jim presented Part 2 of the “Talking Circle”. The first session was hosted by SCIC last September. Both sessions included consumers with disabilities in a productive discussion group.

Summary of Discussion: Through the Talking Circle, American Indians build n an infrastructure in support of American Indian issues on Indian lands.

There are presently 70 Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Programs nationwide. Of these programs:

  • 68 receive 78.3% Federal discretionary grant funding and must reply reapply for grant funding each year
  • 2 are funded from other sources.

California has 4 Tribal VR programs that divide their catchment areas:

  • Pinole Ville
  • Hoopa Yurak
  • Sycuan
  • Fort Mojave

There are presently 40 tribes in California seeking Federal recognition in order to receive Federal funding for services.

Many American Indians with disabilities seek services through the American Indian agencies. Some points to consider:

  • Tribal land is sovereign and therefore not covered by the Federal law e.g. ADA
  • Respect for the culture, mind-body-spirit approach to healing
  • Understand that the disability income may be the only financial supports for the family

In urban areas without Tribal VR programs, American Indians often will not seek or obtain VR services offered by government agencies because of the criteria for determining employment outcomes. The Tribal VR programs are working with Rehabilitation Administration Services for legislative changes that impact employment for American Indians.

  • Recognition of “gainful employment” along with “competitive employment” as a successful employment outcome
  • Traditional employment outcomes e.g. Reindeer Herder in Alaska and Fishnet Repairer, are unpaid but provide reciprocal support such as food and shelter

At this time, none of the Tribal VR programs have applied to be Employment Networks under the Ticket To Work program.

In an introduction to a video created by a student in the SDSU Post-Employment Training / American Indian Rehabilitation program, Jim pointed out that Indian languages do not have a word for “disability”. The video he showed did an outstanding job of explaining Social Security from the American Indian perspective.

Group Discussion on Reservation vs. Urban living

  • Unemployment is high on the reservation and tribal leaders need to develop plans for attracting employers
  • Those who move to the city for employment find that having a disability adds another layer of discrimination
  • Urban life is more structured and results in hardships on those trying to fit into the Euro-American culture
  • Majority of those who move to urban areas for employment return to the reservation within 3 months
  • In urban areas, self-employment faces strong competition; on the reservation self-employment must meet the needs of the community


Primary concerns faced by American Indian community agencies:

  • Transportation is a very limited on the reservation, particularly accessible transportation
  • Child Care


Potential actions to be taken:

  • Funding needed for tokens or other financial assistance to provide consumers with access to public transit
  • Train Elders to be advocates on disability issues – be a voice in the tribal councils and community
  • Use the AIAC web page to outreach to the community, provide resource information, support for communication within the American Indian community
  • Use the Talking Circle within the community with consumers and community partners
  • Use the Talking Circle in AIAC meetings
  • Spread awareness of the AIAC within American Indian agencies


Web Page Update

The web page was discussed and changes will be implemented.

Susie offered a disc with public pictures, examples of California’s Indian community, for use on the AIAC web page.

A final draft of the AIAC web page will be presented at the next AIAC meeting.

Thank you to Susie for hosting this meeting and for offering to host our next meeting.


Next Meeting

March 9, 2005

Department of Rehabilitation

Greater LA District

5400 E. Olympic Blvd., Suite 200

City of Commerce


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