President George H.W. Bush signed into law a joint resolution designating the month of November as the first American Indian Heritage Month (also known as Native American Heritage Month). Many states have enacted additional days in recognition and in support of Indigenous Peoples.

In honor of this holiday and the contributions of Native people, here are some important facts to know and job search resources for American Indians and Alaskan Natives.


Native Americans and the Role of Tribes

A Native American is a member of any of the indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America. Division persists as to whether the appropriate term for these people is "Native American" or "American Indian." When in doubt about someone's preferred term, it is always appropriate to refer to their tribal membership.

In fact, there are over 574 federally recognized tribes in the US in 2021. Federal Register. A federally recognized tribe is an American Indian or Alaska Native tribal entity that is recognized as having a government-to-government relationship with the United States. This includes recognition as a sovereign nation which means that it is recognized to have the power to govern itself, its lands, alliances, and trade.

However, there are over 200 tribes in the US that do not currently have federal recognition. This means that there are limits to resources, infrastructure, and support for the tens of thousands of members of those tribes. NPR.

The largest tribe in the US is currently the Cherokee with over 819,105 members. In 1838, the US Army forced the Cherokee Nation to leave their homes in the Southeast US to march to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. The other tribes that make up the 10 largest tribes in the US are:

  • Navajo, population of 332,129
  • Choctaw, population of 195,764
  • Chippewa, population of 170,742
  • Sioux, population of 170,110
  • Apache, population of 110,810
  • Blackfeet (Siksikaitsitapi), population of 105,304
  • Creek (Muscogee), population of 88,332
  • Iroquois, population of 81,002
  • Lumbee, population of 73,681

Historical Factors

The complexity of the status of tribes and the need for solutions for American Indians in the US is the result of a number of historical factors.

For example, American Indians were not granted citizenship in the US until 1924 under the Indian Citizenship Act. The right to vote in the US was also granted to Native Americans in 1924. However, it took an additional 40 years for all 50 states to allow Native Americans to vote. Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw Tribe of Kansas, was elected to the US Congress and then to the Vice President of the US. However, the first Native women to serve in national office was not until 2018 when Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, were elected to the US Congress.

Despite this progress, Native Americans continue to be marginalized. Native women comprise 40% of those that are trafficked while they reflect less than 2% of the US population. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, Native Americans are also incarcerated at a rate 38% higher than the national average. In 19 states, they are more overrepresented in the prison population than any other race or ethnicity.

Native Americans and Employment

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Report still doesn't track the data for Native Americans. But, there have been a number of studies done to track unemployment and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Native Americans.

To understand these statistics, it is important to also understand that the US Census Bureau reports that 61% of Native Americans identify as two or more races, the highest of any Census-defined racial group. This can create limits in the ability to collect data in the population. But, in the African American Research Collaborative/Commonwealth Fund American COVID-19 Vaccine Poll, nearly 1/3 of Native Americans reported losing their jobs due to COVID-19. This is higher than all other racial and ethnic populations. And, nearly 40% of the Native American population had their work hours or pay cut over the past year which was also higher than all other groups. There is a growing movement by the Tribal governments across the US to build out structures to start gathering the data to better understand the needs and support Native Americans.

Resources for Employment

Despite these statistics, there are a number of resources available to Native Americans to support their job search. Here are some of those resources available right now:

  • Indian Preference. The US government provides preference to qualified Indian candidates when applying to jobs with multiple agencies. Complete and submit Form BIA4432 Verification of Indian Preference with your applications.
  • Tribal Resources. Most federally recognized tribes have free services supporting their members through their job search. Many tribes are also hiring their open jobs. Contact your tribe directly to find the right resources for your job search.  
  • Partnership with Native Americans. This non-profit helps people to find jobs that directly benefit the lives of native people.
  • American Indian Business Leaders (AIBL). This organization has the mission to increase the representation of American Indians and Alaska Natives in business and entrepreneurial ventures through education and leadership development.
  • Native American Jobs. This job board has featured employers that have positions for Native people.
  • Indian Health Service Jobs. This job board has an interactive map with opportunities across the US.
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs Job Board. This job board is to find jobs at the BIA to serve Native communities across the US.
  • The Contingent Plan. We offer free consultation and special discount programs to support the job search of Native Americans. Schedule Now to find out if you qualify.

Have resources to add to this list? Share them with us or send us an email at contact@thecontingentplan.com so we can add them to the list.

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