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Many Nations, United Voice, video transcript


Announcer: American Indians with disabilities who seek employment often walk alone on a frightening path, where their own skills and abilities are not easily recognized. Assisting tribal members with disabilities in preparing for and obtaining employment-based on each individual’s abilities and interest is the mission of the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation program located across the state of Oklahoma.

Many Nations, United Voices

Presented by Oklahoma Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Council and Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Announcer: Oklahoma Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Programs provide culturally appropriate services to any eligible American Indian. In order to receive services, you must be a member of a federally recognized tribe and live within the tribal vocational rehabilitation service area. You must be able and willing to gain employment after receiving rehabilitation services. Once you’re determined eligible, you and your VR counselor will develop a written plan based on your specific needs.

Types of services may include guidance and counseling, physical and mental restoration, training services, rehabilitation technology, job placement and other goods or services that determined necessary to help you go to work. Each Oklahoma Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation program has a working partnership with the state of Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. As a consumer, you have the option to work with both programs during the rehabilitation process.

Michael Jackson, Consumer: “It was not just a working relationship between them, but it was a team effort. They kept each other appraised of my support system, which was a large number of agencies.”

Announcer: The VR process unfolds into seven steps. They are Application, Evaluation, Determination of Eligibility, Planning, Receiving VR services, Employment, and Post-Employment Services.

Step 1: Application

When you meet with your counselor for the time, the counselor will explain the rehabilitation process and gather information such as medical history, work history, education, training, abilities, interests, needs, and employment goals.

Charles Sleeper, Counselor: “I ask what their interests are? What type of work experience they had before and what they will be interested in.”

Anita Selvidge, Counselor: “We just sit and discuss your goals. How your impediment affects your ability to work. What you feel your needs are to be employable.”

Announcer: You’ll also be informed of your rights and responsibilities including confidentiality of your personal information. Step required to fill counselor decisions and access to the client assistance program, which act as a client advocate.

Debby Wilson, Consumer: “I liked the idea that he was sensitive to privacy and was respectful of how I felt and he respectful of my needs. I didn’t have to worry about put-downs. I didn’t have to worry about judgments. I could be real free in how I spoke to him. He seemed to understand what I was going through.”

Announcer: You can speed up the application process by bringing information that is able to you such as medical, psychological and education records to your first meeting. The counselor will need the names of your doctors or therapists and any medications you are taking. If this information is not available you may be asked to sign release forms that permit your physician to provide medical records to the VR Office.

Step 2 – Evaluation

The tribal VR program will evaluate your disability to decide if you are eligible for services. If additional test are needed, the counselor may arrange an appointment with a physician, psychologist or other health care professionals.

Step 3 – Eligibility

There are many disabilities ranging from depression to chemical dependency to disabilities resulting from accident or illness. Just having a disability doesn’t necessarily mean that you are eligible for VR services. The disability must make it very difficult for you to get or keep a job.

Step 4 – Plan for employment

If you are determined eligible for a tribal VR program, the next step will include you and your VR counselor developing a written individualize plan for employment or IPE. At this point, your tribal counselor and state Department of Rehabilitation counselor may work with you together if you are receiving services from both programs.

Anita Selvidge, Counselor: “And we’re going to sit down and we’re going to determine what you’re going to need to be successful. If it’s a two year college degree, if it’s day care, or if it’s transportation. We’re going to plan out these services together. Once we agree on these services, and this is how you’re going to reach your goal and we’ll both sign this agreement and start you on your path to employment.”

Announcer: Your VR counselor will provide information about choices you have in developing the plan. The IPE is a written record of services that will help you prepare for , find, keep or return to employment goal based on your abilities, interests, resources and informed choice.

Pamela Bobelu, Counselor: “I am just showing you or laying out different options for you – it’s your choice to pick whichever direction you go.”

Announcer: It is very important that you are involved in the planning and following through with the IPE for you to succeed in reaching your employment goal.

Marilyn Nuttle, Consumer: “Since I was asking them for help I thought well, their going to tell me what to do but it was me telling them what I wanted to do. They were just there to help me, to make it clear how I could accomplish that cause they wanted to me succeed at what I was going to do.”

Announcer: After you and your counselor sign the IPE you will get a copy. If your needs change while you are in the Vocational Rehabilitation program your plan may be changed. You may ask for a review of your plan at any time.

Wendell Schurzs, Counselor: “If there is a situation with the consumers as far as wanting to do something different then an append is made to the IPE.”

Step 5 – VR Services

Many different services are available to help you reach your employment goal. Your VR services will probably be different from those received by others because the services outlined in your IPE are based on your individual needs and goals. Your VR counselor will discuss with you the different services that are available to reach your employment goal.

Jessie Ply, Counselor: “We are here to serve you. So, we what to know what you want to do. We want to make that possible for you. We have all these different ways to make that happen.”

Zoie Stumblingbear, Counselor: “Whatever it is that we can do to help you succeed that’s what we are going to do for you.”

Announcer: Services may include training, resource information, assistive technology, employment placement and traditional healing. Throughout the VR process, counseling and guidance will be provided to you by your VR counselor. Training includes vocational, on-the-job, personal and vocational adjustment training, job search skill development and job coaching.

Assistive technology such as telecommunication, sensory and other rehabilitation equipment may be provided to help you function more effectively in the workplace. Information and referrals also are provided to help you get appropriate services from other agencies. Employment services including job search, placement and follow-up services may help you find and keep suitable employment in your chosen career.

The uniqueness of the tribal VR programs is the alternative to provide traditional healing services such as the medicine man or woman, or participating in the ceremonial sweat lodge and other cultural services. A limited number of traditional medicine men and women are still living today. Healing practices are gifts and these gifts are passed down only to those who will continue to help others. At the request of the consumer, a medicine man or woman may be called upon to provide services that may be used in the treatment of substance abuse, chronic pain and physical illness. The specifics of these treatments are very private in nature.

Step 6 – Employment

The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to help people with disabilities find suitable employment. Although you must take responsibility as a consumer, your VR counselor will assist you every step of the way, including your search for a job.

Mary Ross, Counselor: “I will help you with interviewing skills, a resume preparation and if there is any other additional referrals that I can make to other agencies or other individuals I will also do that.”

Announcer: It is important to let your counselor know when you start work at a new job. Once you go to work, your counselor will continue to help you and provide additional services needed for three months. Generally, your VR case will be closed after you have worked successfully for 90 days.

Step 7 - Post-Employment Services

If your situation changes and you loose or have trouble keeping your job, you may go back to the VR office for more help. Post-employment services may be available to help you keep your job or get your job back, move ahead on your job or move to a better job.

Michael Jackson, Consumer: “They will put that light inside to where you start directing your life again. You start making the choices that you feel you’ve lost. So that gives you that independence, it gives you that empowerment that you have control of your life again.”

Donna Shockley, Consumer: “It’s made me a better person, more confident. I am a better mother, grandmother.”

Dail Allen, Consumer: “It has totally changed my life around. I am very grateful for what they’ve done for me.”

Harvey Monetathchi, Consumer: “I had almost given up pursuing a higher education when they came to my rescue. I am ever grateful to them.”

Tammera Bearbow, Consumer: “They brought me up, made me feel better about life and having a job and I can do it. I know I am strong enough to do it.”

Announcer: Delivering culturally appropriate VR services to any tribal members living in Oklahoma is a very important part of the VR process. It gives American Indians the confidence needed to better share their talents and abilities with the entire community

Oklahoma Tribal VR Programs are here to serve you. For more information, call the nearest Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation office or the state Department of Rehabilitation Services.

The Apache Tribal VR Program in Anadarko, 405-247-7494

The Cherokee Tribal VR Program in Tahlequah, 918-453-5004

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal VR Program in El Reno, 405-422-7617

The Chickasaw Tribal VR Program in Ada, 580-436-0553

The Choctaw Tribal VR Program in Hugo, 877-285-6893

The Delaware Tribal VR Program in Oklahoma City, 405-632-3749.

The Iowa Tribal VR Program in Perkins, 888-336-4692.

The Muscogee (Creek) Tribal VR Program in Okemah, 888-367-2332.

The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services statewide call 800-845-8476.

This video is presented by Oklahoma Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation and the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.


Narrated by Enoch Kelly Haney.

Principal Chief of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma

Native American flute music from “Prairie Rain” 2003

Written and Performed by Terry Tsotigh

Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma

Thanks to Jim Anquoe and the Redstone Singers of Oklahoma

Dedicated to the Memory of Robert Washington 1955-2007

©OTVR Council 2007