Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Extension of Tribal Self-Determination


Maintaining and enhancing tribal sovereignty and self-determination is a key goal in Indian country. One way to strengthen self-determination is to control assets and resources that affect tribal members and tribal lands. Because of its importance and dollar value, assuming control over the TANF program can expand tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Bringing TANF under tribal control marries two major goals--tribal self-determination and moving tribal members from welfare to work.

One way in which operating TANF increases tribal control of resources is to expand the range of employment opportunities that are filled through tribal action. Because of the high unemployment rates in much of Indian country, tribes find the salaried staff positions required to run TANF programs especially attractive. Consistent with the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (PL 93-638), as amended, most tribes include Indian preference in their hiring practices, and most tribal TANF programs try to hire industrious, successful participants in the program. Former TANF participants can bring valuable perspectives and experience to their work, and they can be models for current program participants.

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