Final 2021 Tiwahe Project Report

In consultation with participating Tribes, the Bureau published a final report that includes measures of success and guidelines for other Tribes wanting to implement the model with Tribal Priority Allocation funds. The Report provided the Congress with the pilot cites’ and the Bureau's experiences and viewpoints in implementing the Tiwahe Demonstration Project. 

Congressional appropriations supported the pilot communities across key BIA programs, including Social Services, Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), Housing Improvement Program (HIP), Job Placement & Training (JPT), Tribal Courts, and the Public Safety Recidivism Reduction Initiative (RRI).

Key Findings

Tiwahe fosters systemic change in the delivery of services to children and families through the integration of Tribal practices, customs, values, and traditions. The Demonstration Project showed how Tiwahe offers Tribes the flexibility to design programming and services to address the gaps and needs of its communities. Further, Tiwahe focused on improving collaboration and coordination across core programs, such as Social Services, ICWA, Tribal Courts, RRI, HIP, and JPT. 

The creativity unleashed by the infusion of Tribal culture and traditions into practice and services is transforming the delivery of services within the Tiwahe communities, offering a model of practice for BIA to operationalize and for other federally recognized Tribes to adopt and implement. The pilot sites, as a group, made substantial progress in implementing system-level changes in their Tribal communities. Each pilot site has seen positive outcomes in relation to health and wellness of its children, youth, and families. 

The Report cites:

  • a significant decrease in attempted and completed suicides
  • a dramatic decrease in recidivism rates for juveniles, 
  • reunification between children and their parents significantly earlier (4 to 6 months) than previous rates due to key positions within their Tribal courts systems, 
  • decreases in overall removals of Indian children from the community, 
  • a revitalization of the language, 
  • ability to begin addressing homelessness, overcrowding, and housing shortages in their community. 

Each pilot site had flexibility to use the funding to fill in the gaps and address the service needs left by other programs and funding sources, such as grants. For example, one pilot site chose to focus on enhancements to existing services to address suicide and substance abuse prevention in their youth and services to strengthen their mental health and address trauma. The pilot sites improved and increased screening, access to family and social services, alternatives to incarceration, access to prevention, intervention services, treatment opportunities, referral procedures, and case management services.

The integration of culturally rich and relevant programming, along with efforts to decolonize the systems providing care, have connected youth and adults with their Tribal history, their families, and their communities. The flexibilities offered under Tiwahe opened the door for the pilot sites to create fundamental shifts in the delivery of services, to include the following: 

  • Traditional Tribal perspectives, values, and understanding in policies and daily practices. 
  • Position Tribal ways of knowing at the heart of their programs, which informed all the services being provided. 
  • Cultural protocols and practices that underpin the operation of their programs. 

This was a cornerstone of the original goals of the Tiwahe Initiative: the belief in the connection among all living things, in the importance of family and community, and in a holistic approach to life. This re-visioning and re-engineering process was new and unfamiliar to many of the pilot sites – the shift in focus toward the development of a systems approach that is grounded in the Tribe’s history, customs, traditions, and values elevated the voice of the Tribe over that of Federal regulation and policy. 

Further, Tiwahe advances racial equality and supports underserved communities, such as Tribal communities, in alignment with President Biden’s Executive Order 13985.

Report Recommendations

This report makes key recommendations to sustain the Tiwahe Initiative to strengthen Tribal communities and families. The recommendations include the following: 

  1. Accept the premise that a model of coordinated service delivery, focused on empowering families to have the freedom to control their own lives, will achieve more sustainable outcomes for families and Tribes. 
  2. Tiwahe is a model to support Tribal self-determination and self-governance. 
  3. Tiwahe is a framework that can be used in the application of operations under self-determination and self-governance contracts. 
  4. The Tiwahe Final Report is a founding framework to establish a structure for federally recognized Tribes to partner with BIA, other Federal departments, and key stakeholders for a coordinated investment of services for sustainable and positive long-term outcomes for families. 
  5. Establish and expand the Tiwahe Pilot Initiative as a model program for all Tribes. 

Overall, the pilot Tribes have demonstrated that the return in investment of the Tiwahe Initiative is both exciting and powerful, providing the Congress and BIA a solid basis for continuing and expanding the Initiative. Tiwahe provides a framework—which could be used by non-Tiwahe pilot Tribes to strengthen their Tribal communities and families—that is driven by local Tribal priorities and circumstances. This is consistent with the Federal Government’s policy on self-determination and self-governance.


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