CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information

NAR - Oklahoma


Cherokee Nation
Project 130 Vocational Rehabilitation
P.O. Box 948
Tahlequah, Oklahoma 74464

Section One - Descriptive Information

1. Describe the reservation in terms of geography, people language and government.

The Cherokee Nation jurisdictional areas are located in northeastern Oklahoma. It comprises a 14 county area with approximately 7,600 square miles. The area is not defined as a reservation. The tribal members are integrated within mostly rural communities and one major city, Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Cherokee Tribe is governed by Chief Wilma Mankiller and the Tribal Council. The majority of the tribal population speak English with few members preserving the Cherol6ee language.

2. Describe the major health issues addressed by the rehabilitation and medical services on thF reservation.

The major health issues addressed by rehabilitation would be diabetes and all of its secondary complications. The next issues would be substance and alcohol abuse.

3. Describe the employment/economyw educational system and the cultural kinship systems in place.

The tribal population is integrated within each rural community and urban area. We have one large urban area, Tulsa, Oklahoma, in which the prospect of employment is good. Most communities are located within rural areas with little or no industry. There is one tribally controlled high school (boarding) within our jurisdictional area. Most students attend public school facilities and higher education. We have one major public university and several public vo-techs and colleges within our jurisdictional boundaries.

Section Two - Program and Services

4. How is rehabilitation viewed by the community, culture, consumers, family and social structure?

Rehabilitation is a new concept within our community, a well kept secret. Our particular culture has no real recognized individuals as having disabilities; therefore, services have rarely been sought. Indians are accepted for what they bring to this earth and for what they are. The person has generally been accepted as the challenged one. As consumers and families are educated on rehabilita- tion, they welcome it and are thankful for any assistance they receive.

5. How is rehabilitation different today from the practices five years ago? Twenty years ago?

The Cherokee Tribe had no funds for rehabilitation, neither five nor twenty years ago. This is a very new concept. It was available through the State but tribal members rarely utilize State associated services.

6. What makes rehabilitation unique or exemplary on your reservation?

We recognize the family as an important entity of the individual and their recovery. Our counselors take the time to listen to our peoples' needs, making them feel welcome and comfortable in our environment. You must build trust and take the time to talk, thus creating a bonding relationship. This is something that is voiced over and over by tribal members. State facilities are too busy and don't listen. Cultural mores are addressed in native language.

7. What are the characteristics of persons with disabilities on your reservation?

The disability descriptions are numerous and I would say fairly evenly distributed, with the exception of diabetes, alcohol and substance abuse, and accident and injury.

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?

They need a chance to better educate themselves and the necessary funding available in which to accomplish this. They have been crippled through system dependency. A lot of the tribal members have no marketable skills and/or are greatly in need of pre-employment skills. They have not been successful with employment. They want to know where to find a job and how to go about getting one. They believe they are not hired for a job because of their physical disability, not realizing that they simply may not have communicated themselves appropriately as perceived by an Anglo agency.

9. What is the future of rehabilitation on your reservation, and from your perspective, for the Native American Nations?

I view rehabilitation as one of the single most important programs ever funded for a tribe. The tribe does not presently recognize this and it has now become my goal within the next two years to educate them to this fact. This program can serve a multitude of people and bring change to the unbroken circle of unemployment and system dependency.

10. what role does technology play in the lives of individuals with disabilities on your reservation?

Technology plays a very little role within our jurisdictional area. There is little funding available and few technology centers. We are currently working with an Independent Living Center recently awarded funds for technology assistance to set up office once a month within our facility. An l.L.C. counselor will be on site to work with CNVR counselors.

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