Hello, my name is Susan Jenkins and I am Treasurer of EERS. I have evaluated several Federal Tribal Grants Programs and have learned to redesign assessment, analysis, strategies, and solutions to be appropriate for tribal governments and/or tribal programs. While American Indians and Alaska Natives are citizens of the United States, they also maintain separate and distinct citizenship, cultural values, traditions, beliefs, and identity which provide for modes of thought and communication that may differ from those of other groups.
Lesson Learned: You do not have to be an expert. Learning what you can about the group you will be working with and being humble goes a long way.
Lesson Learned: Allocate enough time. Tribal traditions often require that tribal leaders deliberate extensively and consider the long-term consequences of their decisions.
Lesson Learned: Tribal members may speak English as a second language and some concepts are not easily translated. Being sensitive and seeking clarification in a patient and respectful manner can bridge gaps in cross-cultural communication.
Hot Tip: Some ways to demonstrate respect include:
- Be willing to admit limited knowledge of tribal culture, and inviting tribal members to educate you about specific cultural protocols. When in doubt about something, ask respectfully for guidance.
- Understand that certain objects, such as feathers and beadwork may be sacred, and should not be touched or discussed.
- Listen and observe more than you speak and be comfortable with silences or long pauses in conversation. In tribal communities, any interruption is considered highly disrespectful, and may undermine your credibility.
- Understand that Native Americans may convey truths or difficult messages through humor or by telling stories.
- Pointing your finger is interpreted as rude behavior in many tribes.
- Respect personal space and do not take photographs without permission.
Rad Resource: On a recommendation from the head of my agency’s Tribal Grants Program, I took the training: “Working Effectively with Tribal Governments“ which provided basic skills and knowledge for working more effectively with tribal governments. I increased my understanding and awareness of tribal issues and concerns, and important legal, historical and cultural factors that should inform work with Tribal programs.
Rad Resource: Medicine Wheel Evaluation Framework. This guide introduces the ‘Medicine Wheel’, outlining its history and uses, and shows how it can be used as an evaluation framework. I used this guide to develop a graphic showing proposed individual-level outcomes of the Federal Tribal Grant Program.
Rad Resource: A list of citations obtained from public sources and recommended by National Indian Education Association (NIEA) staff and partners. Over 25 citations/abstracts and, where available, links to full-text are provided.
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