Chapter 9: Indian Tribes and Tribal Organizations

9.1 Indian Tribes

Created on: 
Oct 16 2018

Legal References:

The Indian Tribes section includes:

  • 9.1.1 Tribal Sovereignty
  • 9.1.2 Centennial Accord
  • 9.1.3 DSHS Administrative Policy 7.01
  • 9.1.4 Tribal Governments
  • 9.1.5 State Liaisons

WorkFirst staff consults and develops policy with Indian tribes as a WorkFirst partner - at the state, regional, and local level. As part of this partnership we:

  • Coordinate with tribes which run their own Tribal TANF program;
  • Collaborate with tribes to provide employment and training services; and
  • Develop additional participation activities for tribal members.

This section will describe key concepts that are important to understand when we work with Tribal Government representatives. The following section describes important principals we must be aware of when working with Tribal members.

9.1.1 Tribal Sovereignty

Indian tribes, as governments, occupy an important place in our federal governmental system. Different from a minority or racial classification, Indian tribes are separate and independent political entities. They are sovereign nations possessing inherent governmental authority and powers. For more information see Understanding the legal basis of working relationship with Indian tribes and tribal clients.

Tribes possess the right to form their own government, to make and enforce their own laws, to tax, to establish membership criteria, to license and regulate activities, to zone, and to exclude persons from tribal lands, independently from the neighboring state government.

9.1.2 Centennial Accord

The Centennial Accord recognizes and respects the sovereignty of the Tribes and calls for a government-to-government approach to dealing with the tribes. Governor Booth Gardner and the Tribal Chairs of most of the Washington tribes signed the Centennial Accord in 1989.

Accredited public and private technical colleges and schools, community and technical colleges, and tribal colleges offer approvable vocational programs. For TANF families, the case manager approves training. For Non-WorkFirst families, a community or technical college give approval, by confirming the vocational nature of the consumer's training plan.

Since 1989, each Governor has signed a Proclamation reaffirming the fundamental principles and integrity of government-to-government relations established by the Centennial Accord. The Proclamation directs state agencies to develop policy consistent with the principles stated in the Accord and asserts that the principles of the Accord shall guide Washington State 's policy in relations with the federally recognized tribal governments.

For more information about government-to-government relations and tribal sovereignty, Click here.

9.1.3 DSHS Administrative Policy 7.01

DSHS Administrative Policy 7.01 is the department's American Indian Policy. The policy outlines the state's commitment and a process for consulting with tribes and tribal organizations in the planning and delivery of services to Indian governments and communities.

DSHS agencies consult with Indian tribes and Indian organizations in the development of biennial service plans along with an updated report on the status of these plans. Policy 7.01 provides the opportunity for involvement and meaningful input in the department's plans, budgets, policies, manuals, and operational procedures affecting American Indian people. Biennial service plans and progress reports must be developed at headquarter and regional levels.

9.1.4 Tribal Governments

Tribes operate under their own governmental systems. Many tribes have executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. Many have adopted their own constitutions and some still have traditional systems of governments.

  • The chief executive of the tribe is called the tribal chairperson, similar to our governor or the president.
  • The chair presides over the governing body called the tribal council, which performs the legislative function and assumes those duties delegated by the general membership.
  • Most tribes require a referendum of the membership to enact laws and make changes to their constitution.

In Washington State there are twenty-nine (29) federally recognized tribes and several non-federally recognized tribes and Indian organizations. Washington ranks among the top ten states in terms of significant Indian population and significant reservation land base. Over 50% of tribal members still live on or near reservations.

9.1.5 State Liaisons

There are several state resources available to help state agency staff when they work with tribes.

  • The Governor's Office of Indian Affairs (GOIA), focuses on the Proclamations affirming the government-to-government relationship and principles identified in the Centennial Accord to promote and enhance tribal self-sufficiency. It also helps the state develop policies consistent with those principles.
  • The Office of Indian Policy (OIP) develops recommendations in conjunction with DSHS management, Tribal governments and Indian organizations to improve service delivery to Indian people. They also advocate, facilitate communication with tribes and ensure direct and timely access for tribal participation in the planning and development of service delivery.
  • The Community Services Division (CSD), Tribal Relations liaisons help ESA management and staff in working in partnership with Tribal Nations on a government-to-government basis. Tribal Relations liaisons helps ESA staff:
    • Improve state/tribal relations;
    • Promote a policy consultation process;
    • Meet our commitment to the Centennial Accord and DSHS Administrative Policy 7.01; and,
    • Bring about successful child support and TANF programs for Washington State Tribes.
  • You can contact CSD, DCS, and DSHS and Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) tribal liaisons for help on individual cases.

For more information on Tribes, GOIA, and OIP see the ESA Tribal Relations website.


Related WorkFirst Handbook Sections

Other Resources

9.2 Tribal Members

Revised June 28, 2019

Legal References:

The Tribal Members section includes:

  • 9.2.1 Tribal Enrollment
  • 9.2.2 Tribal ACES Codes - Step-by-Step Guide
  • 9.2.3 Equitable access
  • 9.2.4 Dual child care eligibility
  • 9.2.5 Tribal Non-relocation policy

9.2.1 Tribal Enrollment

Tribal governments are made up of individuals who are citizens of the United States, citizens of the State in which they reside, and also citizens or "members" of their own tribes. These individuals are usually described as being "enrolled" in a tribe. Eligibility for enrollment is based on the laws of each respective tribe.

Individual enrolled tribal members may be entitled to certain rights and benefits under tribal or federal law. These rights are based on treaties, executive orders, and federal legislation.

To make sure people can take advantage of all of their rights and benefits, we capture race and tribal affiliation information in ACES/3G for every member of the family. We also use ACES/3G to identify tribal members who are living on a reservation and which reservation they live on.

We use this information to support Tribal TANF programs and to administer the Indian County disregard (federal time limit exemptions for tribal members who live on reservations with high unemployment). For additional information about:

9.2.2 Tribal ACES and 3G Codes - Step-by-Step Guide

  • Enter race, tribal affiliation, reservation, and Indian Country codes in ACES/3G for every member of the family.
  • Document the tribal affiliation for each member of the family. Most tribal members will share this information and proof is not required.

On the (DEM1) scree in ACES and the client screen in 3G

  • Enter the appropriate race codes including Indian (American) or Alaska Native.
  • Enter the four-digit tribal affiliation code in the "NAVAM" field for each member of the family.
    • If a person belongs to one of the tribes not on the list enter "9999".
    • For "no tribal affiliation" enter "0000".
  • Enter yes or no on the "IND RES" field to indicate whether the family is living on an Indian reservation /Indian Country.

On the (ADDR) screen:

  • If ACES cannot auto fill the "Indian Country" field based on the address (i.e. rural routes, non-standard street address or homeless), you will be required to enter the four-digit code for one of the 29 Reservations. Enter "0000" if the family does not live on a reservation. It is very important to update and standardize the address every time a tribal member moves as s/he could have moved on or off a reservation.
  • ACES coding, refer to the ACES User Manual , Interview
  • The Indian Country Disregard, refer to the EA-Z Manual, TANF/SFA Time limits .

9.2.3 Equitable Access

WorkFirst is committed to provide tribal families with equitable access to all activities and benefits. We coordinate with tribal service representatives to facilitate access and ensure that services reflect tribal cultures whenever possible. Local and regional offices work with tribal counterparts in tribal governments and Indian organizations to coordinate services that assist American Indians move into employment as quickly as possible.

There are many state and federal laws that require equitable access:

  • Federal law requires the State to provide equitable access to assistance under the State TANF program for tribal families who are not enrolled in a Tribal TANF program (42 U.S.C. 602 (a)(5)).
  • The State is required to certify in its State TANF Plan that it is providing equitable access for tribal families.
  • State law ( RCW 74.08A.040 ) and WAC 388-310-1900(2) require WorkFirst state agencies and their community partners to give tribal members equitable access to all WorkFirst activities and services.
  • State law requires that DSHS provide Indian tribes with on-going, meaningful opportunities to participate in the development, oversight, and operation of the state WorkFirst program. DSHS provides these opportunities through activities provided for in DSHS Policy 7.01 implementation.

9.2.4 Dual Child Care Eligibility

American Indians have dual eligibility for child care. Tribal members are eligible for Working Connections Child Care funds and may also be eligible for tribal child care services. Federal funding to tribes for child care assistance allows tribes to choose to provide services to families directly or to refer families to DSHS for these services.

For additional information about Working Connections Child Care (WCCC), please refer to WorkFirst Handbook Chapter 2.3 and to the Child Care Subsidy Programs Policy Manual.

9.2.5 Tribal Non-Relocation Policy

According to Department of Social & Health Services Administrative Policy 7.01 and in recognition of the 1989 Centennial Accord, federal treaties and executive orders, coupled with the recognition of sovereignty, the State recognizes that tribal communities have legal and political ties to their lands. Therefore, the longstanding policy of the WorkFirst partners is that no American Indian living on or near a reservation or tribal community will be required to relocate in order to meet work participation requirements.

Relocation is a sensitive cultural issue because of the past federal policy that forcibly removed American Indians from their ancestral lands. Tribal members may also benefit from lower living expenses by virtue of living on ancestral lands, and may face a much steeper cost of living outside of their homelands. Under WorkFirst, if an American Indian is offered a job that requires relocation and this is unacceptable to the participant, we develop an Individual Responsibility Plan to find alternative activities that do not require relocation. Our goal is to provide all the advantages and opportunities of WorkFirst to tribal members who choose to live in Indian Country.


Related WorkFirst Handbook Sections

Other Resources

9.3 Tribal TANF

Legal References:

The Tribal TANF section includes:

  • 9.3.1 Background
  • 9.3.2 Service Population & Areas
  • 9.3.3 Operating Agreements & TFAP
  • 9.3.4 Tribal TANF Benefits
  • 9.3.5 Child Care for Tribal TANF Families
  • 9.3.6 Child Support for Tribal TANF families

9.3.1 Background

The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) provided tribal governments an unprecedented opportunity to design and administer their own TANF programs under 42 USC 612 . Congress recognized the unique economic hardship and challenges facing tribal members by allowing Indian tribes greater flexibility in designing program requirements to meet TANF goals.

RCW 74.08A.040 supports the federal law and directs the state to work with tribes and support Tribal TANF programs through the transfer of a fair and equitable amount of State TANF funds.

To start a Tribal TANF program, a tribe:

  • Submits a letter of Intent to the federal government.
  • Develops a Tribal Family Assistance Plan (TFAP, or Tribal TANF plan, outlining its approach to providing welfare-related services and submits it directly to the federal government.
  • Enters into negotiations with the state to determine, at a minimum, the Tribal Family Assistance Grant amount. When an agreement is reached, an intergovernmental agreement is signed and a regional operating agreement is developed.

Tribal TANF agreements and plans are in effect for a three-year period. After that, they may be renewed with the state and the federal government. (See chart for a list of current Tribal TANF programs .)

9.3.2 Service Population & Areas

The tribe has the authority to define its service area and its service population. Each tribe negotiates with the state (and neighboring tribes if applicable), regarding whom they will serve and in what areas. To qualify for Tribal TANF, a family must:

  • Include at least one client, child or adult, who is a Native American/Alaska Native or is affiliated with an Indian Tribe; and
  • Live in the service area of a Tribal TANF Program

Tribes may serve all Native Americans or only tribal members. Tribes typically, but not always, serve all Native Americans who live on their reservation. (See chart for current service populations.)

In addition to their reservation, the tribe decides their geographic service areas, called "near reservation areas." If this area is also the near reservation area of more than one tribe, the tribe will contact the other tribe(s) and, if necessary, work out an agreement with the other tribe(s) on who will be served.

The near reservation areas are defined by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). They are often identified by country or zip code boundaries and should be included in the local operating agreement. (See chart for current service area)

9.3.3 Operating Agreements & TFAP

Each tribe defines Tribal TANF eligibility in the Tribal Family Assistance Plan (TFAP).

The TFAP defines the conditions of eligibility for income, resources, grant standards, services, sanction policy and other eligibility criteria which may differ from the state-administered TANF program. Eligibility is different for each tribe, so refer to the specific tribe's agreement for details.

The Regional Office and affected Community Services Offices (CSO) assume the lead in negotiating an Operating Agreement. The agreement addresses how the state and Tribe will communicate and coordinate, including how:

  • Cases will be transferred to the Tribal TANF program;
  • Cases will be handled if the client moves out of the Tribal TANF service area;
  • Tribal TANF case information will be exchanged for CSO determination of basic food eligibility; and
  • The tribe will handle child support collections.

When a Tribal TANF program begins operations, Regional Office staff identifies eligible tribal cases and transfers them to the Tribal TANF program. The tribe will refer back families who do not qualify for Tribal TANF benefits.

9.3.4 Tribal TANF Benefits

The Tribal TANF program has received TANF funds to provide all TANF cash aid and WorkFirst benefits and services including:

  • TANF grants, emergency cash aid (AREN), and support services;
  • Case management (such as creating Individual Responsibility Plans or imposing sanctions for refusal to participate); and
  • Employment services or other activities to help the family become self-sufficient.

Under the Tribal TANF program, the tribe has the flexibility to provide services in a different manner and may call them by a different name. Differences between the state and Tribal TANF programs may include:

  • TANF grant standards;
  • Income and resource eligibility rules; and
  • Participation requirements, hours, and types of activities.

Families cannot receive both State TANF and Tribal TANF for the same month under federal law. Families with at least one eligible tribal member are eligible for Tribal TANF. The whole family, including tribal and non-tribal members, is served by one program. Do not split the AU between TANF and Tribal TANF.

Federal law does not give tribes legal authority to administer the Basic Food programs at this time so CSOs partner with the tribe to provide these services.

See the EAZ manual for more information about how to process Tribal TANF cases, including authorization of  Basic Food (see Clarifying Information 3. b.).

9.3.5 Child Care for Tribal TANF families

Under federal law and funding, Tribal TANF families may be served through either the Tribal TANF program or through the state's Working Connection Child Care program. The parent can choose which program to apply for, or the tribe can require the parent to first apply for WCCC.

The tribe's child care program may be broader and able to serve clients not eligible for state's program. Families may not receive payment from both programs for any given month.

9.3.6 Child Support for Tribal TANF families

For Tribal TANF tribes, Division of Child Support (DCS) and the tribe develop agreements and procedures regarding the establishment of paternity and child support and the enforcement and distribution of child support. Under most Tribal TANF programs, after the parent has signed an assignment of child support to the tribe, child support collections are sent to the tribe for appropriate distribution.


Related WorkFirst Handbook Sections

Other Resources

9.4 Tribal Participation

Legal References:

The Tribal Participation section includes:

  • 9.4.1 What is Tribal Participation?
  • 9.4.2 Local Plans
  • 9.4.3 Tribal Participation Activities
  • 9.4.4 Other Tribal Resources
  • 9.4.5 Coordination
  • 9.4.6 Tribal Representatives
  • 9.4.7 Tribal participation - Step-by-Step Guide

9.4.1 What is Tribal Participation?

We developed the tribal participation policy in consultation with tribal representatives to ensure that tribal members have broad access to, and are participating in, the most effective activities to help them move forward into employment and beyond. We entered into this process in accordance with the Centennial Accord of 1989 and DSHS Administrative Policy 7.01

Tribal participation policy requires each local area to contact each tribe in their catchment area to discuss how participation will be handled for tribal members - with regional oversight to ensure this occurs. Each tribe should decide whether it wants to:

  • Negotiate specific activities and services that best fit the needs of their tribal members.
  • Commit these agreements to writing; and/or
  • Decide upon a process to review and update participation agreements.

The WorkFirst tribal participation policy recognizes:

  • We must work closely with the tribes, and respect our government-to-government relationship, to develop effective policy and program services.
  • Tribes are in a unique position to provide WorkFirst participation activities that meet the needs of tribal members and other American Indians.
  • The full range of WorkFirst activities and benefits must always be available to tribal members.
  • No Tribal member living on or near a reservation or tribal community will be required to relocate in order to meet work participation requirements.
  • All the WorkFirst advantages and opportunities must be available to tribal members who choose to live in Indian Country.

9.4.2 Local Plans

Tribal participation consists of a menu of activities and services specifically identified by individual tribes as they work with the local areas. All relevant activities may be counted as participation.

The "local area" will vary based on the service area of the tribe and the number of CSOs involved. Other WorkFirst partners, or perhaps the entire LPA, should be included in the discussions depending on respective catchment areas.

There are many American Indians/Alaska Natives who live in urban areas far from their own tribe. When making plans with tribes located by larger cities, you will want to discuss whether urban Indians can access their tribal participation activities. For example, a Yakama Tribal member who lives in Tacoma may be able to participate through the Puyallup participation plan if the Puyallups will serve members of other tribes.

9.4.3 Tribal Participation Activities

Local areas, in consultation with the tribes, can select and refine locally available options. The following activities may be helpful to tribal members and can be approved by a WFPS without a formal written participation agreement between a local area and tribe.

  • Some traditional work such as fishing or berry picking may qualify as employment (coded as FT or PT) if such income meets DSHS' definition of earned income, self-produced income, or self-employment income.
  • DSHS refers American Indian participants to ESD for Career Scope services. It may be appropriate to limit job search to eight hours per week for tribal members living in rural areas with few available jobs.
  • Traditional American Indian activities that perpetuate tribal culture and customs or benefit the tribe can be approved as a type of work experience. This includes:
    • "Subsistence" activities (noncommercial, customary, and traditional harvest of wild, renewable resources for use as food, shelter, fuel, clothing, tools, or transportation).
    • Activities that perpetuate the culture such as teaching or participating in tribal arts and crafts, traditional dance, medicine, herbs, storytelling, assisting tribal elders, and preparing for tribal ceremonies.
  • Tribal-owned businesses and businesses owned by tribal members located on reservations may participate in OJT programs.
  • Customized Job Skills or High Wage High Demand training programs can be created for jobs available in Indian Country, like casino training.
  • Tribal governments, businesses, and organizations may serve as host agencies for a Community Job.

9.4.4 Other Tribal Resources

Tribal governments may have other services available in their area that can be added to the list of local tribal participation options and help tribal members move forward including:

  • Tribal Employment Rights Offices that provide job listings/tribal preference hiring on/near the reservation.
  • Services to resolve crisis situations or other issues (X codes) that interfere with employment, such as health care, family planning, and drug/alcohol assessment and treatment.
  • Programs such as Native Employment Works (NEW) and tribal college or contracted training programs.

9.4.5 Coordination

Local areas and tribes need to discuss and decide on how information will be communicated between the tribe and the CSO so the WFPS knows:

  • What activities a tribal member is engaged in; and
  • Whether s/he is participating as required.

The local arrangement must include details about how the WFPS will be notified and kept informed, as well as how information will generally flow between state and tribal workers. This will ensure that clients have access to the services they need and that they are fully engaged in the activities that will help them move into employment.

9.4.6 Tribal Representatives

WFPS and WFSSSs will encourage all American Indian participants to sign a release of information form (the DSHS 14-012 Consent Form ) so that state and tribal staff can share client information. With a signed release, tribal representatives can be involved in:

Even without a signed release, American Indian participants should be encouraged to invite tribal representatives to these events.

9.4.7 Tribal participation - Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Get a signed release of information so you can coordinate and discuss case specifics with tribal representatives.
  2. Create local agreements to plan local participation activities and communicate participation progress.
  3. Refer participants to locally developed tribal participation activities, like work experience activities that perpetuate tribal culture or customs or benefit the tribe.


9.5 Child Support

Legal References:

  • 42 USC 654 (33) Cooperative Child Support Agreements
  • 42 USC 655 (f) Direct Federal Funding to Indian Tribes
  • RCW 26.25 Cooperative Child Support Services – Indian Tribes
  • WAC 388-14A-1050 DCS Cooperates with Tribes and other States and Countries for Support Enforcement Purposes

The Child Support section includes:

  • 9.5.1 Background
  • 9.5.2 Who do I contact at DCS with questions concerning tribal matters?
  • 9.5.3 How Does DCS define a Tribal case?
  • 9.5.4 Which Indian Tribes in Washington State have Tribal TANF or Tribal Child Support Programs?
  • 9.5.5 Which Indian tribes have cooperative child support agreements with DCS?
  • 9.5.6 Where can I find more information about DCS Tribal Policy?

9.5.1 Background

The Division of Child Support (DCS) has negotiated intergovernmental child support agreements with numerous Indian tribes, as well as, child support provisions in the TANF Agreements. For more information, see Agreements/Codes on the DCS Tribal Relations Website.

On most cases, income withholding is one of the main ways in which DCS collects child support. On cases involving tribal employees, however, income withholding may not be possible due to jurisdictional restraints, specifically a tribe's sovereign immunity.

As distinct, self-governing legal entities, Indian tribes have laws (tribal codes) that apply to tribal members, residents, employees, and employers. Sometimes these codes include specific provisions regarding paternity, child support establishment, and garnishments.

DCS and the ESA State Tribal Relations Unit (STRU) promote and support government-to-government relationships with tribes to cooperatively address child support. These partnerships have resulted in a number of effective ways of improving child support services, allowing Indian children and families to achieve the highest degree of self-sufficiency possible. Some of the ways in which tribes are addressing child support include: tribal code development and utilization of tribal court, informal state/tribal processes, state/tribal cooperative agreements, and federally-funded tribal child support programs.

9.5.2 Who do I contact at DCS with questions concerning tribal matters?

In each DSHS Region, DCS has designated Tribal Liaisons who manage Tribal cases, provide outreach services to interested Indian Tribes and serve as a single point of contact for tribal cases. Each region also has a Tribal Claims Officer who handles legal issues on tribal cases and is responsible for bringing cases into various tribal courts.

9.5.3 How does DCS define a Tribal case?

A tribal case is one that includes, at a minimum, one or more of the following elements:

  • The Non-Custodial Parent (NCP) is a member of a federally recognized Washington tribe.
  • The NCP is employed by the tribe, tribal enterprise, or an Indian-owned business located on a reservation or trust land.
  • A party who is included under a cooperative child support process or agreement.
  • A party who is receiving services from a Tribal TANF or Tribal Child Support program.
  • Other tribal issues.

If any of the above elements are present, the case is assigned to the Tribal Liaison.

9.5.4 Which Indian tribes in Washington State have Tribal TANF or Tribal Child Support Programs?

9.5.5 Which Indian tribes have cooperative child support agreements with DCS?

DCS has negotiated child support agreements and informal processes with numerous tribes. For more information, see the DCS Tribal Relations Website under Tribal Agreements and Codes or contact the local DCS Tribal Liaison.

9.5.6 Where can I find more information about DCS Tribal Policy?

You can find more information about DCS Tribal Policy on the State Tribal Policy page of the DCS Tribal Relations website.