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TIGUA - Road To Recognition: The Travails Of A Tribe

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Author Topic: TIGUA - Road To Recognition: The Travails Of A Tribe  (Read 2753 times)
Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2009, 04:25:25 pm »










"Before federal recognition, we were struggling. The bare necessaries were lacking," said Carlos Hisa, the lieutenant governor of the tribe. "It was like a third-world country here. It was not the best situation for our people. There was not a lot of employment or educational opportunities. We couldn't afford health care. A lot of people had to leave the area, and our people were scattered across the U.S. to look for a better way of life."

"When you look at the basic needs as a society or community, they are health care, education and housing," said Hisa. "With full recognition, we were able to qualify for all those programs and provide basic needs for our people. We have continued to do so since then."

Closer to home, another tribe -- the Lumbee -- has been trying for years to gain federal recognition to be eligible for millions of dollars to provide health care and other services. The Fayetteville Observer spent time with the Tigua Indians, with whom the Lumbees are often compared, to see how that tribe has used federal money to benefit its members.
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Bianca
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« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2009, 04:26:33 pm »








Health benefits



During a visit to the health center, De La Torre answered a series of questions about her health and medications as she waited to see a podiatrist. Her community health representative jotted down notes in De La Torre's file about her weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Each tribal member is assigned a health representative who keeps track of his or her health. The representative also keeps track of medical appointments, calling members to remind them of visits and, in some cases, picking them up.

The transportation component is a blessing for De La Torre, who lives three miles from the reservation just outside El Paso.

"I have a hard time getting around," she said. "If you can't go, they come to you."

The tribe receives about $2.6 million a year from the federal government to operate the health center. The center also houses the tribe's social services, alcohol and substance abuse program, mental health and youth program.

Most of the center's programs are targeted to prevent many of the health issues plaguing tribal members -- diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

To identify health problems earlier and bring down expenses, the tribe requires members to have a mandatory screening before their membership is recertified each year. No screening means no access to tribal benefits.

The policy was implemented three years ago.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 04:35:21 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2009, 04:27:53 pm »









"This is probably the best project that we have done," said Dr. George Haddy, the tribe's health director. "It's amazing how many people we are catching by doing the screenings. By doing this prevention, we can stretch our dollars and do a lot more for the patients and their families."

The programs have been effective in gathering health statistics for the tribe and planning other health services for its members, Gaddy said.

"Now we have statistics on the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension," he said. "Patients receive the attention they need, the guidance, the transportation and more. We have done a good job, but we have a long ways to go. We still have obesity problems, high cholesterol, and sometimes it's hard to motivate patients. But we have been consistent, and we act as coaches to guide our patients."

Early identification has been the key to the health program's success.

"At every health fair or community program when we do screenings, we always find a person with either high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or other problems," Gaddy said. "They usually are very surprised and would have not gone to the doctor had we not identified it.''
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« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2009, 04:29:36 pm »









Revenue loss



Pinching pennies for medical services wasn't a problem until 2002, when the tribe lost its major source of revenue -- The Speaking Rock Casino and Entertainment Center. The casino generated about $60 million a year, but the state shut it down.

Tribal leaders had set aside $2.5 million from casino profits to provide insurance for non-insured tribal members. It used about $400,000 for the tribe's alcohol and substance abuse program. Casino profits also subsidized the tribe's contract health services.

Last year, the tribe began looking at ways to become more self-sufficient without gaming. It established a for-profit corporation to seek out business opportunities and created an economic development board to oversee it

"Right now, we are laying the foundation to be able to make the best decision as far as economic development," Hisa said. "We need to start thinking like a nation and start operating like a nation. We need to create policies and laws to protect our interests and, at the same time, protect anyone investing in the tribe. If we don't have that in place, who will want to invest or team up with the tribe?"

The Tigua Tribal Council created an economic development board in December 2007 to research and make decisions about potential business ventures. It operates independently of the council.

The tribe could have given up after losing its bread and butter, said Patricia Riggs, the tribe's director of economic development. Instead, it sought to develop ways to make itself more sustainable.

"We researched what the tribe could do to take us to another level," Riggs said. "So, in a sense, the closure of the casino actually helped us to grow."
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« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2009, 04:30:28 pm »








The tribe is developing ways to control its economic growth through a recently formed for-profit corporation called Tigua Inc. The corporation serves as a holding company that will invest, acquire or start up subsidiary companies, she said.

"There will be some start-up companies in the works that will go after contracts and into areas that at first we would not tap into, like homeland security," Riggs said. "We want to build the tribal economy as much as we can on the reservation, but if we focus only on the reservation, we will lose potential opportunities."

Those opportunities include pursuing federal contracts, something the tribe was not eligible to do before the Tiguas were recognized. The tribe can seek contract work with the neighboring Fort Bliss Army installation or other government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Interior. It can apply for business development programs, such as the 8(a) program that assists socially and economically disadvantaged firms, and a certification program that helps with federal procurement.

The tribe receives about $120,000 a year from the Bureau of Indian Affairs for economic development. Federal recognition allows the tribe to apply for other economic development funds.

Recently, the tribe received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Association to establish a Tigua Business Center. The center will serve as an incubator for tribe-owned businesses and enterprises.

Riggs said she would like to see more tribal members in high-paying positions, jobs that in the past were not within reach.

"We are seeing that happen already," she said. "We are seeing more tribal members completing college, but I would like to see more."
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« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2009, 04:32:00 pm »









Education programs



The tribe established an Education Department in 1993. Money the tribe receives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and grants help pay for after-school tutoring, referral services and incentive programs.

The tribe receives about $250,000 from the federal government for education programs.

It used casino revenue to help build the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Empowerment Center, which houses the tribe's Education Department, a library and computer lab. It also houses a workforce development center that provides career development information, training and job search services for tribal and non-tribal residents.

All of the educational and work-force development services fall under the tribe's Empowerment Program, which is funded by the Department of Labor, Bureau of Indian Affairs and other grants.

The department also administers the tribe's scholarship program. The tribe awarded $177,836 in scholarships in 2007.

"We try to eliminate excuses for our youth so they could continue their education," said Carlos Hisa, the tribe's lieutenant governor. "We need to get them educated because they will represent the pueblo in the future."

Education is a priority for the tribe, but funding limits what it can do to provide financial aid to its members, said Luis Nunez, director of the Tribal Empowerment Program.

"I am always out looking for different grants or different resources to ensure that our higher education students' needs are met," he said. "We utilize our resources as best as possible. Once they apply for every resource available in the community, then we go ahead and go through the higher education program here. Some of it is through Bureau of Indian Affairs funding, but it is not much and it is limited to a certain degree to who is going to benefit from it."
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« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2009, 04:34:37 pm »









The tribe has been creative in providing educational opportunities for its members, Nunez said. From one Bureau of Indian Affairs program, the tribe has been able to spin off four others: an alternative education program for part-time students, a reimbursement program for those who do not meet income guidelines, a vocational program and a graduate/doctoral program.

The tribe pushes education because it hopes members will come back one day and put their knowledge to use to benefit the tribe.

Christopher Gomez came back to work for the tribe after earning a political science degree from the University of Texas at El Paso. He is now the tribe's economic development planner. Gomez received a higher education grant from the tribe, which paid for his tuition, books and fees.

"I think it was a blessing," he said. "I really wanted to come back and pay my tribe back for giving me that opportunity."






Staff writer Venita Jenkins can be reached at
jenkinsv@fayobserver.com or (910) 738-9158.



To see more of The Fayetteville Observer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go
to http://www.fayettevillenc.com/. Copyright (c) 2009, The Fayetteville
Observer, N.C. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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