XIII.  California Indian Program Needs


Our survey included queries about funding levels of and degree of satisfaction with state and federal programs on California Indian reservations and rancherias.  In addition, at the numerous hearings held by the Advisory Council on California Indian Policy, many tribal leaders presented comments about existing program needs and delivery.  Our survey included federal, BIA, and state programs information such as road, health, Headstart, aging, commodities, Administration for American Indians (ANA), housing, and other programs.  In general, California Indians felt they were underfunded and had access to few federal and state programs, and the often believed they did not have enough information about state or federal programs.  Many small rancherias or reservations believed that they were too small to administer some programs, such as justice systems, Indian Child Welfare Act programs, and welfare programs.  In many instances, small tribes would like to work within consortia arrangements in order to gain access to more state and federal programs.  One such example is the California Services American Indian Block Grant (CSAIBG) grant which is administered on a statewide basis through three consortia.  A welfare grant aimed at families below the poverty line and homeless people, the CSAIBG grant is allocated from Congress to California—Department of Economic Opportunity—which divides the funds according to formula among the reservations, rancherias, and urban Indian centers.  This arrangement was agreed upon by the state, reservations and rancherias, and urban centers during the middle 1980s.  For many programs, however, there are no such arrangements, and small tribes are deprived of badly needed and potentially beneficial services because they are too small to qualify for a funding program or do not have enough staff or administration to apply for or administer the grant.  An overall discussion of the needs of small tribes should be conducted by the tribes and federal agencies.  Consortia agreements should be created in order to create more access and administrative capability among small California tribes.  To the greatest extent possible, any such consortia should be composed of and managed by California Indian people.


Poverty rates among California Indians are among the highest of any group in the United States.  In general, California Indians believe they can benefit greatly from more federal and state programs.  Most California Indian communities have had little support for building viable tribal governments capable of exercising their full powers of self-governance.  In the sections below are summaries of program needs information taken from the ACCIP hearings and from surveys of 19 federally recognized California Indian communities.



General Federal Programs


Our surveyed communities list a variety of programs as very important to them.  BIA programs, Aid to Tribal Government, ANA, HUD, IHS-health centers, and commodities are among the programs most highly regarded by the tribal communities.  These programs help keep the tribal community alive and provide employment and services to tribal members.  Federal programs do their best work in the Indian communities when they provide health care, employment services, housing, child care to parents so they can work, roads, and development of tribal administration, and improve the standard of living within the tribal communities.  Our surveyed communities were highly appreciative of federal programs that tangibly improved the living standards of tribal members.


Nevertheless, the vast majority of the surveyed communities believe that the funding levels of federal programs are inadequate for their community needs.  They say that California Indians are underfunded when compared to other regions.  California has suffered underfunding and less administrative attention from the federal government and BIA because the California treaties were not ratified and the California Indians could not establish stable land bases under U.S. law.  Furthermore, BIA labor force reports are erroneous because many of the questions are not applicable to the California Indian situation.  Consequently, California Indians are undercounted and underfunded.  Furthermore, California Indians are more scattered about the state, with over 100 recognized groups and many communities yet to be recognized by the federal government.  The multiple and fragmented distribution of California Indian communities increases the administrative difficulties and costs to the BIA and federal government.  The cost of living is higher in California than in other areas of the country, thereby weakening the already weak funding effects of federal programs for California Indians.  The political environment in California has been historically more hostile to Indians than in many other states.  One respondent to our community survey wrote, “The state government of California is extremely backward in areas involving Indians as opposed to Washington or Oklahoma.”  Federal programs for California Indians are underfunded, and all employees at the tribal level are underpaid.  More base funding is needed for the many small California communities, especially for the operation of tribal government.  Funding should be more directly allocated to tribal governments, with fewer layers of administrative bureaucracy.


Our surveyed communities state they are greatly in need of additional BIA services and programs.  Some BIA programs have not earmarked any funds to California Indians, for example in areas such as law and order programs, environmental protection, and education and scholarships.  Aid to Tribal Government (ATTG), small tribes funds, Housing Improvement (HIP), Community Fire Protection, tribal courts, schools, higher education, adult education, tribal rights protection, land acquisition, road building and maintenance, water rights, legal services, realty service, and base funding for tribal governments are programs for which many communities desire additional or initial funding. In addition, some tribes believe that the BIA should provide more technical assistance.


Most of our surveyed communities did not receive significant program attention from the state of California, but most wanted additional state-administered services.  State government could provide more funds for education, juvenile justice programs, Indian education centers, funds to fight drug abuse, and real estate services to help obtain land necessary for some HUD programs.


Our surveyed tribal communities believe that California tribes face special issues that differ from those of tribes in other states.  The failure to ratify treaties in California was an issue already mentioned above.  But California Indians say, “People outside California don’t understand small tribal governments.”  Small California tribes are over-legislated, restricted by state and federal law, and over-patronized, but have few funds or independent resources to counter these constraints.  In small tribal governments, tribal employees have little job security, since grants are usually short term and often cannot be relied upon for stable planning and secure employment.  With no support for administration, small tribal governments have great difficulty conducting normal business and often cannot pay for heating oil, telephones, and lights.  Some small tribal governments operate on as little as $3,000 to $5,000 for administrative expenses per year.  Without a sufficient administrative base, small tribal administrations have difficulty mobilizing grant writing for securing additional programs and funds for the community.  Many small tribal governments must rely on volunteer hours from members of their tribal communities.  Some small tribes state that each tribal government needs a guaranteed base funding of at least $160,000 for administrative expenses.  Without base funding, many small tribes will be unable to create viable tribal administrations, will fail to exercise significant community self-governance, and will be severely constrained in any efforts of economic development.  Significant base funding must be a high priority for most small California Indian tribes.


Maintenance of Roads


California receives a small share of BIA roads funds for building or maintaining roads.  Furthermore, California reservations and rancherias are often located in areas where there are few state or county roads, and therefore access to many rancherias and reservations is difficult.  Where the terrain is mountainous or desert, there are few roads, and the cost is high for building and maintaining the roads in such isolated locations.  Because of the difficult terrain, the limited funding that the BIA provides to California Indians supports construction of only a few miles of roadway, which is inadequate for the needs of the over 100 California reservations and rancherias.  Some reservations and rancherias do not have public access roads, and the Indian residents must gain access from private owners.  The lack of access roads and on–reservation or rancheria roads presents difficulties for adequate police protection and inhibits potential for economic development.


Most reservations or rancherias in our survey were not directly involved in road maintenance.  This task was left primarily to county and local officials, since the BIA maintained only a small amount of roadway.  In order for tribal governments to effectively maintain roads on their lands, they need more funding, more work crews, more equipment.  Tribal governments wanted clearer definition between tribal and county roads.  Since there were few BIA roads and relatively more county roadways, tribal governments were concerned about jurisdiction issues concerning county roadways on California Indian land.  There are some complaints that counties do not keep up their roads on Indian land.  Sometimes, the BIA funded the building of roads, but then turned the roads over to county government, who gave such roads little or no attention for upkeep. 


When the BIA maintains reservation roads, most tribal governments believe that the funds for maintenance are inadequate.  Several communities were satisfied with BIA road maintenance in recent years, and that the roads had been properly managed with new road signs, repaving and grading.  There is a waiting list for building BIA roads, when the BIA does build roads, they perform satisfactory work.  However, the waiting list is long and funds scarce, and therefore most communities must wait a long time for even modest road improvement. 


According to our survey sources, BIA road building and maintenance could be improved by more funding and more direct funding to the BIA.  At least some tribes preferred that road building and maintenance funds come directly to the BIA, and not channeled through the California State Highway Department.  Tribes thought that there should be more information provided about tribal roads, more consultation with tribes on roads projects, more tribal control over BIA roads, and more 638 contracting and greater technical assistance to design and maintain roads in the areas where they are needed.


USDA Commodity Programs


Most California Indian communities responding to our survey indicated that they did not receive commodity foods directly from the Department of Agriculture programs or agencies.  Those communities that received commodities got them from the Sherwood Valley Food Distribution program, the Aid on Aging program, county programs, and programs administered by other tribes.  The Sherwood Valley Food Distribution program is a consortium for food distribution to the community, and at least 7 tribal reservations and rancherias participate.  Most or our surveyed communities believed that at least some members of their communities needed commodities, with the percentage ranging from 3 percent to 70 percent.  A median of 40 percent of tribal members within the surveyed tribal communities were estimated to need food supplements from the commodities program.  Most California Indian communities in our survey believed that a significant portion of their people needed access to the commodity program.


A small majority of our surveyed communities believed that the commodities program adequately serves the nutritional needs of their communities.  Those communities that felt that the commodities program fell short of their nutritional needs, said that the types and amounts of foods offered by the program were limited.  Commodities could not satisfy any community’s complete nutrition needs.  There is little attention to diabetic concerns, and a better emphasis on healthy eating and diabetic diet should accompany or complement the program.  A diet of cheese and butter is inadequate.  One tribe remarked that the commodity program served the overall needs of those tribal members who qualified.  Nevertheless, this community supplemented the food program with nutrition workshops to help people prepare food and to educate them about low-fat, low-salt, diabetic, low-sugar cooking.  One community reported that the commodities program has improved over the years.  Nevertheless, the food is still too full of salt, sugar, fat (cheese, real butter, peanuts, peanut butter), and canned red meat.  The food content of commodities must be reconsidered, and healthier foods such as fresh fruits, fruits packed in natural juices, and vegetables should be made available.


In addition to fresher, more varied, and healthier food, our respondents suggest that the commodities program could be improved in terms of better access to storage, and more direct tribal control of the program.  Tribes need to deal directly with the USDA and not California state agencies.  The commodities program should also be more sensitive and knowledgeable about tribal eating practices and preferences.  A nutritionist should develop more culturally sensitive menus for use by tribal peoples.  Federal regulations of the program are too restrictive.  For example, people on food stamps don’t qualify no matter what amount of food stamps are received.  Regulations should be reconsidered in order to better serve Indian people.  More information should be disseminated about the program within the Indian communities.  Needy urban Indians need to be granted access to the commodities program.  In California, a high proportion of tribal members do not live on reservations, and have migrated to nearby urban areas in search of employment and other goals.  Needy urban Indian residents are not granted access to commodities, even if they have membership in a California tribal community.  Many California Indian people have difficulty getting transportation access to commodity distribution points.  More transportation to commodity distribution points needs to be provided for needy members of the tribal communities.  Home delivery of food should be considered for the neediest and most isolated tribal members.  Food could be distributed on a weekly basis, rather than on the current biweekly, or longer, schedules now in place.  California Indians have many pragmatic suggestions for the commodities program, and adopting many of their suggestions will materially improve the value of the program to the neediest community members.


Administration on Aging


Our surveyed communities estimate that their resident population aged 65 or over ranges from very few to 40 percent.  The median for this group of communities is 5 percent of the population aged 65 or over.  Of this elders group, those who are in need of care varies from very few to 100 percent in some communities.  The estimated median need for program care among the elderly is 30 percent.  Those elderly in need of care and without care ranges from very few, or none, in some communities to 100 percent in two communities.  In some instances, the elders are cared for by family members. 


Seven communities had Title VI Administration for Aging programs, while 7 communities did not.  For those without programs, their elderly were cared for by the county, by subcontracts, by non-Indian community agencies, and through the Toiyabe Indian Health project.  Those communities with Title VI programs report that only a slight majority are satisfied with program services.  Most complaints focused on the lack of funding and inadequate services.  The services were not able to meet the needs of the elderly.  Several members of the community who lived off the reservation could not be served by the program.  Transportation for the elderly was not sufficient; buses would not travel to some parts of the county.  At least one community suggested that their Title VI program did not make a serious effort to reach out to Indian elderly.


Our surveyed communities suggest that the Title VI Administration on Aging program could be improved in a variety of ways.  Their foremost suggestion is that more funding and services are needed.  Small tribes have difficulty organizing Title IV programs, but organizing program consortia to serve many small Indian communities would improve chances of service.  Better transportation and regular provision of food  for the elderly would improve the value of the program to Indian elders.




Most of our surveyed communities did not have Headstart programs.  Several communities thought they were too small to organize a Headstart program, but would be interested in a consortium of California Indian communities that would administer Headstart programs.  Some communities send their children to city and county programs, but their attendance is restricted by availability.  A slight majority of communities with Headstart  expressed satisfaction with the program.  Some communities were dissatisfied because many community members had difficulty transporting their children to the program site.  One community expressed the need for more supplies and equipment.  Full day programs are preferred to half-day programs.  Possibilities of program cutbacks are discouraging to some communities that already administer the program or are contemplating future application.


Administration for American Indians (ANA)


Most of our surveyed communities had ANA programs, and those that didn’t either had one in the recent past and/or were working on an application to fund a program in the near future.  Current grants ranged from $58,000 to $176,000.  ANA grants are used for a variety of purposes.  Several communities use their grant for developing tribal legal codes and ordinances or to amend their constitution.  Others have grants for economic development projects.  Most communities are satisfied with ANA grants and administration.  Nevertheless, several communities expressed the need for more funding opportunities and higher levels of ANA funding.  Economic development funds were among the most mentioned needs for ANA funding.




Housing Programs


Most of our surveyed communities received federal funds for new construction or renovation of housing, and most received Housing Improvement (HIP) funds from the BIA.  HIP funding levels varied from $2,000 to $53,000, and the number of housing units affected ranged from 1 to 30 units.  About half of our surveyed communities received Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding for building new houses.  Those who did not receive HUD funds stated that they were too small and needed the help of a consortium for grant writing and administration; others had not applied, or had their applications rejected.  An overwhelming portion of our surveyed communities did not believe that HUD funding was adequate.  The large majority stated that more housing was needed.  Housing needs ranged from 5 to 214 housing units.  Many communities complained that the HIP and HUD funding levels currently received were so small that they were of very little practical or effective value.  For example, as one community referred to their HIP funding level, “How much can you do with $13K?” .  Most California Indian communities in our survey stated that they were in desperate need of new housing and home repair programs.  Some communities have homeless tribal members.  More funds were needed for housing and, in some cases, funds for land acquisition for suitable property to build on.


Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) Programs


Most of our surveyed communities received funding from DHHS.  Many of the programs are administered through health consortia, such as the Toiyabe Health Project, by the Indian Health Service (IHS), and through county administered services.    The types of programs funded include general health programs, Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) programs, child care, tribal management through the ANA, family services, alcohol programs, dental services, and substance abuse programs. 


Our surveyed communities were evenly divided over satisfaction with the DHHS programs, with half stating they were satisfied and half stating they were dissatisfied.  Problems reported were that the programs were not sufficient to take care of community health needs.  There are inadequate staff and a need for service delivery people who are conscious and sensitive to the needs and cultural preferences of Indian community people.  Indian people are generally reluctant to come to clinics if they are not sensitively treated.


DHHS programs could be improved with more funding, more cultural sensitivity training for service delivery personnel, placement of  more clinics within reach of tribal communities, better transportation to health facilities for tribal members, greater training of tribal advisory board members in contract monitoring, administrative, and fiscal management, and reevaluation of program monitoring procedures. 


Most surveyed communities believe that they have great and pressing health and welfare needs.  Many tribal community people are in need of health and welfare service, but are not currently being served.  More funds are needed for patient care, dental services, elderly services, and contract health care.  More funding and more programs are needed for Education and Child Care, Meals on Wheels, Senior Nutrition Programs, and food vouchers.  More programs and funds are also needed in health treatment, youth and substance abuse treatment, parent training, and community activities.  Full-time health clinics and health care beyond levels provided by the IHS should be considered, especially for California Indians.  Our surveyed communities believe that they have significant health and welfare problems that need greater administrative and funding attention from the DHHS.


Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Services


About a one-third of the reporting communities indicated they were involved in an ICWA consortium, and most were satisfied with this arrangement.  Even those within consortia, however, thought that ICWA services needed increased funding at rates two to six times present levels, and also indicated the need for more staff and better staff training.


Those tribal communities that did not work within a consortium had similar comments.  More funding was needed to run adequate programs, and more training of personnel was necessary.  Not only were greater funding levels needed, but more consistent funding and more consistent delivery of technical services are desirable.  One tribe suggested that ICWA programs might be improved by reducing layers of bureaucracy and delivering ICWA program funds more directly to the regional offices and to the tribal governments.


Most tribal communities valued their ICWA programs, although they did not always win jurisdiction over orphaned members of their tribe.  Nevertheless, all the tribal communities voiced a need for increased ICWA funding and for greater community and tribal government attention about ICWA matters.




California Indian communities greatly value BIA, federal, and state assistance programs.  High rates of poverty in California Indian communities foster many social, economic, and health problems.  Federal and state programs are often the only available means to provide aid to needy tribal members.  Government programs are very helpful, but most California Indian communities believe that they need significantly more funding, technical assistance, access to more BIA funding categories, and more training of tribal members.  Tribal governments prefer to gain more control and input into programs that serve their communities.  The large numbers of small tribes in California creates special needs for minimum base funding to manage tribal governments and the need to consider group alliances or consortia for application and administration of many BIA, federal and state programs.  California Indians believe they are underfunded and underadministered when compared to other Indian communities, and the data provided in this report support their belief.