banner
color

NATIVE AMERICANS IN OKLAHOMA

DEFINITION [top]

With 39 tribal nations’ tribal headquarters, Oklahoma has the largest diversity of Native American tribes in US.  There are 25 different Native American languages spoken in Oklahoma, which is more than any other state.  According the 2000 US Census Data, Oklahoma has the second largest population of Native Americans (“The American Indian”, 2002). Oklahoma land was once deemed “Indian Territory” during the eras of allotment and relocation, resulting in thousands of people from many different tribes relocating from their origins in the eastern regions of the United States.  As a result, the stories told by the tribes now located within the state provide an invaluable look into the histories, cultures, and origins of their people.

SOCIAL WORK CONCERNS [top]

Like many states, Oklahoma faces numerous challenges in caring for its elderly population as we prepare for a dramatic growth in the number of elders over the next several decades. With large rural areas, Oklahoma and its cities, villages, and towns are simply unprepared to effectively meet the needs of its elders.  Protective services, elder care, dementia and memory loss, victimization and exploitation are salient issues  that are very relevant to the social work profession and the preparation of social work personnel who understand—and can respond to—the needs of the elderly. 

One of the major concerns is the safety of elders and the abilities of current public and nonprofit human service providers who do not have systems in place to ensure outreach, detection, and care of those elders who are frail, possess limited social supports, and require vigilant health care.  To address the challenges inherent in serving native elders, who share similar health concerns as those groups who are in the majority, but who also experience numerous health disparities, including diabetes, many tribal nations within the state of Oklahoma support their own social, human service, and health services infrastructure, such as the Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw (Chickasaw Nation, 2008, Cherokee Nation, 2008, & Choctaw Nation, 2008).

RELEVANCE FOR NATIVE ELDERS [top]

Oklahoma is host to a growing aging population and currently has more senior citizens than the national average of 12% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). Nationally, Oklahoma ranks 19th in the percentage of its population that is age 65 years or older, making elders a significant population that is at-risk and vulnerable.  This risk is expected to increase given that the number of Oklahoman elders age 85 or older will double by 2030 (Iowa Data Center, 2000). Census data indicate that by 2015 the population of those over age 65 will have grown at nearly three times the rate of the overall population. Approximately 45% (estimates indicate 52% by 2020) of older Native Americans reside in just four states (Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Oklahoma) and Oklahoma possesses the highest numbers of native elders, tribes and nations (American Association of Retired People, 1995; U.S. Administration on Aging , 1997; Campbell, 1994).

Oklahoma is unique due to its high percentage of Native Americans and Native elders.  The population of Native Americans in Oklahoma is not monolithic and in fact, contains a high level of tribal diversity.  The Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission (2007) lists 39 tribal governments in the state and each of these tribal governments has different citizenship requirements. The most common citizenship requirement is that of ‘blood quantum’ or the percentage of Native blood determined by an ancestor who is listed on the original land allotment rolls, and without enrollment in another tribe. 

Tribal nations of Oklahoma range in membership size across the state, anywhere from 200 people to 240,000 (OIAC, 2007).  The tribes identified by name in Table 1 (Data and Facts Section) not only vary in their size but have different histories, native homes, traditions, and cultural identities.  They also vary in their sovereignty with some tribes having federal recognition, while others are in the process of application, and still others are without federal recognition.  Yet with sovereignty aside, tribal identities within the state of Oklahoma are strong, imbuing the state with considerable diversity in cultures steeped with strengths inherent in surviving adversity and oppression.  The portion of the population exhibiting these qualities the most are the elders, ones that lived through the eras of relocation, termination, and assimilation. 

ROLE OF HEALTH LITERACY [top]

Health Literacy is gaining much needed attention by health service providers across the country.  The Health Literacy Institute simplifies it as “the ability to read, write, understand, compute, and use information essential to managing one’s health and healthcare” (2009). Given that 66% of the elderly in the United States have “inadequate or marginal literacy skills” (“Talking”, 2003) and the vast majority of poverty stricken individuals are without good education, the interpersonal skills that serve as an asset to social workers are increasingly essential in translating vital health information to aging populations. 

Resources:

US Department of Health and Human Services: Quick Guide to Health Literacy

Program Makes Staff More Sensitive to Health Literacy and Promotes Access to Understandable Health Information

Health Literacy Review from the Center for Rural Health

DATA AND FACT SHEETS [top]

Table 1: Tribal Nations of Oklahoma

Absentee Shawnee Tribe Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Alabama Quassarte Tribal Town Osage Nation
Apache Tribe Otoe-Missouria Tribe
Caddo Tribe Ottawa Tribe
Cherokee Nation Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
Chickasaw Nation Ponca Nation
Choctaw Nation Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Sac and Fox
Comanche Nation Seminole Nation
Delaware Nation Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma
Eastern Shawnee Tribe Shawnee Tribe
Fort Sill Apache Tribe Thlopthlocco Tribal Town
Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma Tonkawa Tribe
Kaw Nation of Oklahoma United Keetowah Band of Cherokees
Kialegee Tribal Town Wichita & Affiliated Tribes
Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma Wyandotte Nation
Kiowa Tribe Delaware Tribe of Indians*
Miami Nation Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians*
Modoc Tribe  

* - Have applied for federal recognition

Native American household income in Oklahoma is 18% less than the median income in the state (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). Particularly problematic is poverty in rural areas of Oklahoma – in counties that have very high poverty rates. Figure 2 depicts the spatial distribution of high poverty Native American counties in Oklahoma. Not only do these counties have a high incidence of poverty – overall they have the highest percentage of individuals in deep poverty – with 20% of individuals in these areas residing in households with incomes below the 75% poverty threshold. High poverty Native American counties are located in states with a history of a tribal presence or 19th century reservation resettlement areas – which includes Oklahoma (United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2004). These counties have low employment rates, fewer regular full time year round workers, high receipt of public assistance, and high rates of child poverty (USDA, 2004). Table 2 highlights that population base and poverty rates of these 6 counties in Oklahoma.

Table 2: Oklahoma High Poverty Native America Counties

POPULATION BASE (Total)
POVERTY RATE (%)
County
TOTAL
White
Black
Hisp
Native
Asian
TOTAL
White
Black
Hisp
Native
Asian
ADAIR
20,552
9,714
22
650
8,856
20
23.2
18.9
27.3
28.5
28.4
0
CADDO
28,857
18,714
666
1,834
6,795
54
21.7
15.5
39.5
32.3
35.1
24.1
CHEROKEE
40,920
22,497
294
1,670
13,269
56
22.9
19.3
43.9
25.7
27.6
64.3
HUGHES
12,869
9,468
257
259
2,074
16
21.9
17.4
22.6
51
33.5
81.3
JOHNSTON
10,213
7,754
152
263
1,536
19
22
19.7
35.5
39.9
28.2
52.6
SEMINOLE
24,326
17,091
1,301
548
4,124
104
20.8
16.7
30.5
34.7
31.4
13.5

Data from ERS analysis of Census 2000 data, U.S. Census Bureau

Native American Lands

Although Oklahoma is home to 39 tribal nations, there is only one reservation.  In contrast with other states with many reservations, Oklahoma is a state with a high number of rural service contexts without reservations (refer to Figure 3).

 Native Lands of USA

About 9% of Oklahoma households do not have telephones ranking the state 7th in the nation (U.S. Census Bureau, 1994).  Nationally, approximately 1 in 4 Native American households lack access to a telephone and in Oklahoma estimates reveal that about 4% of elderly households do not have telephone service (U.S. Census Bureau, 1994), and at least 21% of Oklahoma Native American homes do not own telephones (Bursac & Campbell, 2003). Obviously, households without access to telephone services, particularly those isolated in rural areas, will face challenges in accessing and receiving services (Westermeyer, 1996).

VIDEOS AND WEBCASTS [top]

POWERPOINTS [top]

Module 1: The Native American (NA) Elder – Cultural Social Work in Native Traditions

Important Policy Periods for Native Americans:  Cultural competence in working with elders - powerpoint
Focused on Native Elders, this presentation looks at assessment, eligibility, mistrust, and the Romanization in treatment.

Cultural Overview - powerpoint
The PowerPoint provides an overview of NA values, foundational information on Native American culture, and the importance of native elders.

Ethnic Identity and Acculturation - powerpoint
This presentation provides foundational information to facilitate understanding across different ethnic groups. 

Ethnogeriatric Assessment - powerpoint
A brief PowerPoint that adapts materials from Module 4: Curriculum in Ethnogeriatrics that highlights the definition of ethnogeriatric assessment and the domains involved. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY [top]

Chickasaw Nation (2008).  Service Directories. Retrieved May 25, 2008, from http://www.chickasaw.net/services/index_1213.htm

Cherokee Nation (2008).  Cherokee Elder Services: A Community PACE Program.  Retrieved June 18, 2008, from http://eldercare.cherokee.org

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (2008).  Social Services.  Retrieved June 18, 2008, from http://www.choctawnation.com/Programs/dsp_SocialServ.cfm

Dillon, N. (2007, December). The Trail to Progress. American School Board Journal, 194(12), 20-25. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database.

Eichner, J. et al. (2005, March). Tobacco use among American Indians in Oklahoma: An epidemiologic view. Public Health Reports, 120(2), 192-199. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database.

Gundlach, J., & Roberts, A. (1978, January). Native American Indian migration and relocation: Success or Failure. Pacific Sociological Review, 21(1), 117-128. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from SocINDEX database.

Health Literacy Institute. (2009). About health literacy and plain language. Retrieved August 20, 2008 from http://www.healthliteracyinstitute.net/abouthl.html

Jackson, J. (2007, September). The Paradoxical Power of Endangerment. World Literature Today, 81(5), 37-41. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database.

Kosmerick, T. (1999, Summer). Exploring New Territory: The History of Native Americans as Revealed Through Congressional Papers... Western Historical Quarterly, 30(2), 203. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database.

Lassiter, L. (2001, Spring/Summer2001). 'From Here On, I Will Be Praying to You': Indian Churches, Kiowa Hymns, and Native American.... Ethnomusicology, 45(2), 338. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database.

Linn, M. (2007, September). Oklahoma Native Languages at the Centennial. World Literature Today, 81(5), 24-25. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database.

McFall, S. (2000, November). Health-Related Quality of Life of Older Native American Primary Care Patients. Research on Aging, 22(6), 692. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database.

Rhoades, E. & Deersmith, M. (1996).  Health care of Oklahoma Indians.  Journal of Oklahoma State Medical Association, 89, 165-172. 

Saravanabhavan, R. & Marshall, C. (1994, July). The older Native American Indian with disabilities: Implications for providers of health care and human services. Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 22(3), 182-194. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database.

Schnell, S. (2000, April). The Kiowa homeland in Oklahoma. Geographical Review, 90(2), 155. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from Academic Search Elite database.

Talking the talk: Improving patient-provider communication. (March 2003). Facts of life: Issue briefings for health reporters, 8(3).  Retrieved September 10, 2008 from http://www.cfah.org/factsoflife/vol8no3.cfm.

The American Indian and Alaska Native population. (2002, February). The US Census Bureau. Retrieved March 12, 2009 from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/c2kbr01-15.pdf.

Westermeyer, J. (1996).  Alcohol and Older American Indians.  Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 117-118.

COURSE INFUSION [top]

Module 1: The Native American (NA) Elder – Cultural Social Work in Native Traditions

Assignments:
Diverse population intervention paper

Activities:
History Across Generations: Impact on Native Elders
- pdf link

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES [top]

Concentrations Native American Elderly in Tulsa – Map

Concentration of individuals 65 and older living in poverty in Tulsa

Changes in Indian Territory across Oklahoma from 1820-1907   

 

color