American Indian Unemployment in Kansas City


The AIEBC was formed to address a problem as it relates to the American Indian community. When you focus just on business alone, the statistics and lack of interest or knowledge in 2012 showed a less than marginally, disenfranchised portion of the population that was all but completely disengaged in the field of construction and is reflected in contracts awarded according to HRD Summary report 2013.  

This in no way is a reflection on either the city’s attitude or willingness in helping American Indian businesses to grow, or any of the larger Contractor or Utility Companies for that matter that do not support this organization but it does speak to the inability on our part to make ourselves known and to engage ourselves in the process. Fortunately we have seen some movement in an effort to engage both registered businesses and businesses we assisted in registering, as American Indian owned that have garnered contracts and have done extremely well.

Another issue we found was the unemployment rate for American Indians. In the first half of 2013, the largest increases in the High Unemployment Means Native Americans Are Still Waiting for an Economic Recovery, where the American Indian unemployment rate is up 7.8 percentage points, and in the Southwest, where it is up 7.7 percentage points, which translates to 16.8%.

To address these very issues we began looking at some of the indicators of what exactly is the traits or types of issues lacking that are faced by the community that enflames the stigma of poverty:


Having the money to purchase goods and services?


Being able to choose and control emotional responses, particularly to negative situations, without engaging in self‐destructive behavior.

This is an internal resource and shows itself through stamina, perseverance, and choices.


Having the mental abilities and acquired skills (reading, writing, computing) to deal with daily life.


Believing in divine purpose and guidance. Having hope or a future story.


Having physical health and mobility.

Support Systems   

Having friends, family, and backup resources available to access in times of need. These are external resources.

Relationships/Role Models  

Having frequent access to adult(s) who are appropriate, who are nurturing to the child, and who do not engage in self‐destructive behavior.

Knowledge of Hidden Rules

Knowing the unspoken cues and habits of a group.

Formal Register

Having the vocabulary, language ability, and negotiation skills necessary to succeed in school and/or work settings.


Behaviors of the Individual

 Dependence on:

Welfare, Morality, Crime, Single parenthood, Breakup of families, Intergenerational Character traits, Work ethic, Racism and Discrimination, Commitment to Achievement, Spending habits, Addiction, mental Illness, domestic violence, Planning skills

Orientation to the Future,  Language experience

Human and Social Capital in the Community

Intellectual capital , Social capital , Availability of jobs , Availability of well- paying jobs , Racism and discrimination , Availability and quality of education , Adequate skill sets , Childcare for working families , Decline in neighborhoods , Decline in social morality, Urbanization Suburbanization of manufacturing , Middle-class flight , City and regional planning


Drug trade, Racism and discrimination, Payday lenders, Sub-prime lenders, Lease/purchase outlets, Gambling, Tempwork, Sweatshops, Sex trade, Internet scams

Political/Economic Structures

 Globalization, Equity and growth, Corporate influence on legislators, Declining middle class, De-industrialization, Job loss, Decline of unions, Taxation patterns, Salary ratio of CEO to line worker, Immigration patterns, Economic disparity, Racism and discrimination

How we knew our community was at risk and what those indicators were

o Population loss

o Middle-class flight

o Young-adult children leave the community and don’t come back

o Lost manufacturing

o Tax delinquencies/foreclosures

o More temporary and part-time jobs

o Rising food insecurity

o Low-income housing costs above 30% of income

o Growing number of payday lending, cash advance, pawnshops, and lease/ purchase outlets

o Free and reduced lunch rates rising

o Number and value of business loans are declining

o Investment in infrastructure is declining

o Fiscal difficulties for city or county

o City or county hiring freezes or layoffs

o Deteriorating Main Street

Then we began looking for something more, NOT a temporary program that calls for volunteers to fix up and repair homes as a one time feel good project BUT real training programs, employment training classes, a local action center and incubators as a solution. We prepared bids and toured several abandoned schools as a start-up, settling on the Milton Moore School as a locality for our incubator, we also looked at as an alternative, a not for profit coffee shop as a training tool to help entrepreneurs start their own businesses using the coffee shop as a mentorship program, lastly we attempted to tie in with established businesses as mentors.

We should begin by looking at some of the American Indians you’ll find here in Kansas City, Mo. and what it was that brought them here. I should be clear that by American Indians I am not referring to those that found out they have a distant relative or two or three generations removed that may have been American Indian and then run out and find an organization that will endorse them as being American Indian because the tribe or nation they are claiming refuses to recognize them and they use this as “community recognition”.

We are talking about actual American Indians whose lives have been affected because they are American Indians.

Where do these people come from?

Some of these people are:


Sokaogon Chippewa Community

93 percent unemployment

Tribal enrollment 1,274

Available for work 961

Unemployed 894

The Sokaogon Chippewa Community of Mole Lake, Wisconsin has the highest percentage of unemployed tribal members at 93 percent with 894 unemployed. Out of those that are employed, 79 percent are still living below national poverty standards. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists Wisconsin as having an unemployment rate of 6.8 percent.


Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge

89 percent unemployment

Tribal enrollment 43,146

Available for work 29,539

Unemployed 26,408

Perhaps most infamous for its levels of unemployment and poor living conditions for the majority of its tribal residents the Oglala Sioux of Pine Ridge also has the highest number of unemployed. Unlike South Dakota which has 3.9 percent unemployment, Pine Ridge has an approximate 85 percent higher rating than the state. Though well over 1,000 residents on the reservation are employed, 34 percent of those are still living below poverty standards.
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

88 percent unemployment

Tribal enrollment 15,376

Available for work 11,205

Unemployed 9,893

The Lakota Nation is comprised of more than 3 million acres of land in central South Dakota with approximately 70 percent living on the reservation. Approximately 1,300 residents are employed that live on the reservation, 100 percent are still living below poverty standards.


The Apache Tribe of Oklahoma

87 percent unemployment

Tribal enrollment 1,860

Available for work 1,702

Unemployed 1,485

The Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, also known, as the Plains Apache is a federally recognized tribe located in Anadarko, Oklahoma. With 87 percent unemployment and about 1,700 tribal members available to work, only slightly over 200 are employed. Of that 200+, 100 are living below the standards of poverty. Oklahoma State’s unemployment sits at 5.3 percent.


Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

86 percent unemployment

Tribal enrollment 6,461

Available for work 3,565

Unemployed 3,074

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that straddles the border of North and South Dakota is the sixth largest reservation in land area in the United Sates as well as holding sixth place on our list. With tribal enrollment of 6,461 and more than 3,565 available to work, only 491 are employed. The 3,074 out of work equates to 86 percent unemployment. Of those employed more than 200 or 43 percent are living below poverty standards.


Rosebud Sioux Tribe

83 percent unemployment

Tribal enrollment 26,237

Available for work 14,428

Unemployed 11,909

With 26,237 enrolled members and over 14,428 available for work, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota with 11,909 members without work and unemployment at 83 percent holds the number 2 spot in terms of number of tribal members without a job. It holds the number 10 spot in terms of unemployment percent. Of the 2,519 that are employed, 1,920 or 76 percent are still living in poverty.


Winnebago Tribe

82 percent unemployment

Tribal enrollment 4,321

Available for work 1,055

Unemployed 870

The Winnebago Indian Reservation, which lies in northeastern Nebraska and has the largest community in the Village of Winnebago, has an unemployment rating of 82 percent since only 185 of the 1,055 available have work. Of those working, 172 or 93 percent are living in poverty. Nebraska’s unemployment rate in comparison is currently 4.2 percent.