Our Vocational Rehabilitation Program is located in Dillingham, Alaska. Dillingham is the center of commerce and activity, and has the largest population of the Bristol Bay Region. The Bristol Bay Region is located in Southwest Alaska approximately 550 air miles from Anchorage, Alaska, where half of the population of Alaska lives. We have 30 villages in the Bristol Bay Region that we serve, encompassing an area the size of Ohio. There are no roads connecting the villages.
Bristol Bay Native Association's vocational rehabilitation program is unique in Alaska because it serves three different types of Alaskan Natives. Our area in Bristol Bay is comprised of primarily Yupik people. We also have Athabascans and Aleuts in this diverse region of Alaska. Each speak a different dialect and have their own unique culture. Although there are many similarities in culture and language, there are easily definable differences among the three groups. Many of our people speak their Native language and also English.
Each of our thirty villages operates as a tribe and has been recently recognized by the Federal government as such. Most of the villages operate under a tribal village council or traditional council. This form of government has been their way since the beginning. Most villages today also have a city council.
2. Describe the major health issues addressed by the rehabilitation and medical services on the reservation.
Alcohol and alcohol related problems are the biggest health issues faced by the medical and rehabilitation service providers in the Bristol Bay Region. Alcohol related accidents and injuries are the reason for most of the disabilities in this region.
3. Describe the employment/economy, education system and the cultural kinship systems in place
Bristol Bay economy is based around commercial fishing. Permit holders, crew members, and the cannery/fish processors make up most of the jobs here. ThiS is done for only a few months in the summer. The industry is currently on a major downswing and many people are experiencing hardships as a result. There are few other jobs outside of Dillingham and the King Salmon area. The majority of our people practice a subsistence life style. They live off of the fish, berries and garne of the region.
There is a school in all of the villages. Much is taught at home in the way of culture and subsistence lifestyle. Elders are respected and are depended upon to provide guidance for the people of the village. Nothing will succeed without the approval of the Elders and the Tribal Council.
4. How is rehabilitation viewed by the community, culture, consumers, family and social structuret
Although we have had our vocational rehabilitation program for seven years, it is still a relatively new program to the area. Many still do not understand what it is or how it works. The culture of the people here does not lend itself to asking for help. Many still do not understand what a disability is. It takes time to show the people of a village that vocational rehabilitation works. Those that do understand and can see it work support it and will help those with disabilities go to work. Again, the program must have the support of the Elders in a family and the approval of the Tribal or Traditional Council before services can be implemented.
5. How is rehabilitation different today from the practices five years ago? Twenty years ago?
Twenty years ago there was very little rehabilitation going in the Bristol Bay area. This area was served by the Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (ADVR) out of Anchorage or Fairbanks. Only within the last 15 years, ADVR has put an office of one counselor in Kodiak Island which is now responsible for this area as well as the Yukon-Kuskokwin and the Aleutian Chain. We have adjusted our program with many of the changes in rehabilitation over the years. We have accepted the subsistence lifestyle as work and provide services accordingly.
6. What makes rehabilitation unique or exemplary on your reservation?
We have the ability to overcome many of the barriers that all outsiders, state and federal people experience when trying to provide services to our villages. Cultural sensitivity, respect for the culture, ability to communicate, and the ability to develop meaningful work plans are all unique to our vocational rehabilitation program.
7. What are the characteristics of persons with disabilities on your reservation?
The general characteristics of a person with disabilities in the Bristol Bay region are: completed only some high school, possibly completed a GED; suffer from more than one disability, with the secondary disability of alcoholism (many accidents or injuries are related to alcohol); have low self- esteem; have little or no transferable skills; have work history in fishing or related industry; practice subsistence activities; respect elders; practice Russian Orthodox religion; don't want to leave village for work; receive SSI or SSDI and Permanent Fund dividend.
8. What do you see as the needs and wants of individuals with disabilities on the reservations? What are the immediate concerns of persons with disabilities on Your reservation?
Lack of jobs and training in villages. Many don't want to go outside the village for training or work. They want to stay in the village. They are afraid of the svstem and the dominant culture.
9. What is the future of rehabilitation on your reservation and, from your perspectivew for the Native American Nations?
We need to keep this program going. Without a Section 130 Project, there will be no rehabilitation going on in the Bristol Bay region. We need to get our funding cycle extended to five year grant cycles as the State does. We need to involve Native Alaskans in working in the rehabilitation field. There is a need to have organization of the Section 130 projects. Uniformity in evaluation of the programs, case management/files, important statistics reporting, technical assistance and guidance are critical.
10. what role does technology play in the lives of individuals with disabilities on your reservation?
It does not play a big role because of the lack of available services in the region. All the technology is in Anchorage or Fairbanks. What works in the big city doesn't necessarily work in the bush.
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1. Describe the reservation in terms of geography, people, language, and government.
With one exception, Alaska does not have reservations in the same sense that they exist in the 48 contiguous states. Regarding the Kodiak area, the Kodiak Island group sits in the northern edge of the Gulf of Alaska, approximately 250 air miles southwest of Anchorage. Kodiak Island is mountainous, roughly 100 miles long and 30 miles wide. There are six villages ranging in population from 75 to 400. Kodiak City proper has a population of approximately 6,800. The population of the entire borough is under 16,000.
All villages, including the city of Kodiak, are geographically isolated. The villages are served only by air (single engine plane). The climate is maritime with frequent strong winds, rain, fog, snow, and icing conditions (October through April) which make flying hazardous. Travel off island is by air via Anchorage; in the summer, a ferry operates.
The villages are predominantly native, while the city is predominantly non-native. The villages are isolated with very few services available. Health care is provided mostly by itinerant practitioners, both medical and dental. Emergencies may be very much at the mercy of the weather; they may have to wait for a medivac flight, especially in winter.
People speak mostly English. A few of the Elders still speak Alutiiq, and there is an increasing interest among young people to learn.
Kodiak City has a city council with elected council members. The Kodiak Island borough, which encompasses all of the villages, has an elected assembly. The villages have both city councils and tribal councils.
2. Describe the major health issues addressel by the rehabilitation and medical services or the reservation.
KANA contracts with Indian Health Services to provide comprehensive health and social services to Alaska Natives and American Indians residing within the Kodiak Island region. KANA vocationa rehabilitation's intention is to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services based on t Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992. Approximately 50% of our clients have alcoholism/substance abuse as either a primary c secondary disabling condition. There is also a substantial number of ear problems, secondary e, infections, and debilitative conditions involving noise levels. Work related injuries are also comml due to the extreme hazards of commercial fishing in very severe weather conditions.
3. Describe the employment/economy, education system and the cultural kinship systems in place.
The primary industries in Kodiak City are geared providing support for the commercial fisheries an support services for the Coast Guard Base with it' personnel and dependents. The villages are engaged in commercial fishing and subsistence activities. Both employment opportunities and economic development are primarily seasonal.
Villages all have schools providing classes K12. Students may come in to Kodiak City to attend school or, more often, they choose to stay home and graduate in their own village. Kodiak College, two-year school which is part of the University Ol Alaska system, organizes adult basic education classes for villages. Ongoing training is provided for the community health aides.
Family is very important, but kinship ties do not dictate social interactions. Clans or moieties do not have the impact that they do in some other regions.
4. How is rehabilitation viewed by the community, culture, consumers, hmily and social structure?
Vocational rehabilitation has become a more sought-after alternative in the past few years. We have a steadily widening network of referral sources, through the clinics and the various service providers in the villages and locally in the city. Word of mouth referrals from previous clients are becoming more common.
The primary differences between rehabilitation today and the past are that the services provided today are as culturally appropriate as possible. At this time, KANA vocational rehabilitation's caseload is nearly equal to that of the local state vocational rehabilitation office with its population base nearly four times the size of the native population.
Several aspects of our program are different:
The needs of disabled individuals are the same as others: need for self respect, ability to be self-supporting, and the need to be productive, contributing to their communities. Immediate concerns are finding appropriate training and employment.
9. What is the future of rehabilitation on Your reservation andl from your perspective, for the Native American Nations?
The prospects for the future of rehabilitation services in our area, and probably for other members of the Native American Nations, are positive. Our programs have the same goals as the state programs with the addition of cultural agendas. We provide services to people who would not otherwise be served, either because the services are not available or because the services are offered in a way that makes them unacceptable. It certainly does not appear that we are going to run out of potential clients. 10. What role does technology play in the lives of individuals with disabilities on your rerervatiors?
We do have some past clients functioning happily with TrYsl but on the whole, low-tech assistive devices are more useful. Other than that, technology is just as much a part of the lives of individuals with disabilities as it would be a part of the life of anyone else.
Communication devices are more usable in isolated rural settings than equipment which would suffer from exposure to an uncertain climate. Wherever pertinent, however, technology can play an extremely imPortant role.
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