Tribal Sovereignty and the Indian Health Care System Webinar Series

This 5-part series introduces essential history and information to strengthen your ability to partner with American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) providers/organizations and better serve AIAN people.

Registration for this series is closed, but recordings will be posted below as sessions conclude.


  • August 11 – History, Tribal sovereignty, government to government relations, data sovereignty 
  • September 8 – Unique aspects of the Indian Health Care System 
  • October 13 – Cultural considerations when working with AIAN community members. 
  • November 10 – Historical trauma, stigma and discrimination, and Generational Clarity 
  • December 8 – Innovations and best practices implemented by Tribal and Urban Indian programs for whole person care for people with behavioral health needs and working with AIAN partners 

Session 1: History, Tribal sovereignty, government to government relations, data sovereignty.

This session, presented by Vicki Lowe, Executive Director, American Indian Health Commission of WA State, introduces the legal and historical foundations of the Indian health system and the importance of understanding Tribal sovereignty, data sovereignty, and government to government obligations in WA State. (August 11, 2022)

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Session 2: Unique aspects of the Indian Health Care System

This session, presented by Vicki Lowe, Executive Director, American Indian Health Commission of WA State (AIHC), Cindy Gamble (consultant, AIHC), Wendy Stevens (consultant, AIHC), and Kathryn Akeah (consultant, AIHC) builds on the first session. This session describes the special trust responsibility and legal obligation of the federal government to:

  • to ensure the highest possible health status for Indians and urban Indians;
  • to raise the health status of Indians and urban Indians to at least the levels set forth in the goals contained within the Healthy People 2010 initiative;
  • to increase the proportion of all degrees in the health professions and allied and associated health professions awarded to Indians so that the proportion of Indian health professionals in each Service area is raised to at least the level of that of the general population;
  • to require that all actions under this chapter shall be carried out with active and meaningful consultation with Indian tribes and tribal organizations, and conference with urban Indian organizations;
  • to ensure that the United States and Indian tribes work in a government-to-government relationship to ensure quality health care for all tribal members; and
  • to provide funding for programs and facilities operated by Indian tribes and tribal organizations in amounts that are not less than the amounts provided to programs and facilities operated directly by the Service.

How these obligations have and have not been met was shared including current day challenges with managed care in WA. Pre-colonial Indigenous health status and traditional health practices were described along with the negative impacts of colonization. Present day examples of Tribal/Urban health programs executing sovereignty over health programs for their members included maternal child health, the Tribal/Urban Indian Health Immunization Coalition, and the Tribal/Urban behavioral health system. (September 8, 2022)

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Session 3: Cultural considerations when working with AIAN community members.

This session, presented by Dr. Marie Natrall-Ackles, Tribal Affairs Administrator with the DSHS Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) introduces BHA Policy 10.22 “Native American Cultural Competency.”

Dr. Natrall-Ackles discusses why such a policy is needed to honor cultural medicine and practices when working with American Indian/Alaska Native people in residential behavioral health facilities in WA State. (October 13, 2022)

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Session 4: Generational Clarity Trauma Informed Strategies – an Indigenous Perspective.

Historical and cultural context inform trauma-informed approaches as a path to healing through Seven Generation Strategies, acknowledgement of intergenerational core strengths, and self-determination.

This session is an overview that provides participants with an introduction to the historical experience of American Indians and Alaska Natives related to intergenerational trauma and its connection to Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and the current health challenges endured by Native people.  Participants will also be introduced to culturally relative concepts significant to healing, health, and wellness rooted in ancestral strengths and resilience.

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Session 5: Innovations and Best Practices for Whole Person Care for People with Behavioral Health Needs and Working with AI/AN Partners

The fifth and final session of this series is “Innovations and best practices for whole person care for people with behavioral health needs and working with AIAN partners including the health of AIAN pregnant, birthing and postpartum people“. The session includes how maternal infant health was impacted by colonization and how innovations, culture, and Indigenous knowledge allowed for our survival and our thriving. The session then focuses on Tribal/Urban behavioral health system updates (crisis response services, Behavioral Health Aides, legislation) and coordination of best practices including Indian Health Care Providers as health homes, honoring tribal sovereignty, and Tribes as governments not just clinics. The session concludes with a panel including Charlene R. Abrahamson, Family Services Director, Squaxin Island Tribe and Donald Baumer, ARNP, Associate Medical Director, didgʷálič Wellness Center.

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This series is being co-hosted by the UW Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute and the American Indian Health Commission of WA State and is funded by the State Opioid Response (SOR) grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and is provided by the University of Washington’s Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute.