Tribal Health and Human Services

A unique population that will require an extra high level of cultural competency is America’s First Nations, Native American or Tribal groups. Different groups have a different preferred name for their group and this is just one of the ways in which sensitivity and a high degree of cultural competency must be shown. Due to the tragic history of First Nations peoples in America along with some of the special legal circumstances of Tribal members, these people really do fit a very special and unique category among the various populations you will interact with as a Human Services worker. Having an in-depth understanding of the issues of a particular Tribal group is very helpful as you work on providing Human Services for different tribes. As all federally recognized tribes are considered sovereign entities, the legal status of Tribal members is very different from that of the average US citizen. Among the many historical legacies of Native Americans is that some Tribal reservations are extremely impoverished and health conditions of Tribal members on these reservations are often much worse than in other areas. This is contrasted with tribes that are wealthier and in some cases have a comparatively excellent standard of living. Again, conditions, laws and historical legacies differ dramatically from one Tribal group to the next.

Due to the unique legal status of Tribal groups including treaties as a sovereign nation within United States borders, there are often government benefits that Tribal members are entitled to that are not extended to the general US population. Therefore Human Services organizations often have parallel or partner organizations that distribute benefits to Tribal members. Often social workers within agencies administering US government benefits will have to work in tandem with a Tribal organization or federal entity to ensure that Tribal members receive access to both Tribal benefits and any benefits they may be entitled to from the US government. This process will often involve an additional step to confirm tribal status and heritage. Most Native American tribes keep track of the degree of Tribal blood in its members. This is due to rules within the tribe and also as part of treaties with the US government that require Tribal members to have a certain degree of Native American blood in order to receive benefits. The rules on this vary greatly from tribe to tribe due to internal laws and also treaties. However, virtually all tribal groups track this to some degree.

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When providing Human Services to Native American or First Nations groups it is of paramount importance to act with a high degree of professionalism, compassion and cultural competency. Being aware of the relevant rules, laws and regulations of Tribal groups your are likely to come into contact with is an invaluable knowledge skill set to have. Some states have a much higher Native American population and for these states in particular you will want to be aware of the conditions of different reservations and the rules, regulations and customs of the various Tribes you will be interacting with.