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Federal Job Opportunities for American Indians

Federal Job Opportunities for American Indians

Peter Vogt /

American Indians are the least-represented minority group in the federal workforce, with about 60,000 employees in all, according to the Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE). US Office of Personnel Management’s 1999 data shows that American Indians were underrepresented in 12 of the 39 federal executive departments and independent agencies with more than 500 employees. Additionally, 20 percent of American Indian federal employees held temporary positions (compared with only 10 percent of the rest of the federal workforce).

But these numbers could rise in years to come as recruitment programs continue to evolve. Many federal agencies are establishing initiatives to recruit American Indians for permanent positions, and American Indians who already work for the federal government are taking proactive steps as well.

Employees Take the Initiative

Federal employees of American Indian descent have launched an initiative to bring American Indians into the federal government workforce. SAIGE was established in August 2002. The organization, made up of American Indian employees from across the federal government, “promote[s] the recruitment, hiring, retention, development and advancement of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the government workforce.” SAIGE also “assist[s] individuals and groups working to establish American Indian and Alaska Native employee associations within government agencies and departments.”

Indian Health Service (IHS)

The IHS, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services that provides federal healthcare services to American Indians, offers a Health Professions Scholarship Program for American Indian students enrolled in health and allied health educational programs. Scholarship recipients agree to work for the IHS for one year for each year of support they receive with a minimum two-year service period.

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Institute of Museum and Library Services/University of Arizona

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, the federal agency that supports the nation’s museums and libraries, awarded a half-million-dollar grant to the University of Arizona’s School of Information Resources and Library Science in 2001 to establish the Knowledge River Institute, a program intended to attract American Indians to the field of library science. The institute’s master’s degree program is tailored to the information needs of American Indian communities.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

This federal department has established an American Indian/Alaska Native Employee Advisory Council to collaborate with USDA leaders on key employment issues for American Indians who work for the organization. During the 2002 fiscal year, the advisory council developed a proposal to eliminate the use of offensive American Indian mascot names, logos and team descriptions in the USDA workplace “in order to create an environment for American Indian employees where they are honored rather than ridiculed,” according to the advisory council’s annual report.

Opportunities for College Students

Some federal agencies – including the US Department of Labor, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration and the Federal Communications Commission – are fostering working relationships with American Indians at the college level by participating in American University’s Washington Internships for Native Students program. Through the initiative, American Indian college students from across the country can do six-credit (summer) or 12-credit (school year) internships in Washington, DC, while living on the AU campus. The internships include an academic course covering topics important to American Indian communities.

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