The Reality of American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month

It is appropriate to talk about the fact that American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) federal employees have the lowest engagement levels of any racial group in the federal sector — after all it is AI/AN Heritage Month. As we recognize the many accomplishments, contributions, and sacrifices of our first citizens and their ancestors, as well as pay tribute to their participation in the federal workforce, it is important we call attention to their high disengagement levels.

AI/AN disengagement anxieties are similar to the harvest concerns of farmers. They both have to make hay while the sun is shining. If we do not get the attention of the federal power brokers during AI/AN Month, it is highly unlikely they will be tuned in any other part of the year as AIs/ANs fade off the front pages.

Maybe for the first time in federal government history, we can observe AI/AN Heritage Month in way that is consistent with the hundreds of executive orders, public laws, federal regulations and Presidential proclamations on the books that require the improvement of equal opportunity and program delivery for AI/AN employees and customers.

Federal leaders need to understand the drivers of AI/AN federal employee disengagement.

Despite the fact that AI/AN civilian populations are increasing, they remain the most underrepresented racial group in the federal government.

Long Term Trends
AI/AN federal employees did not just come to this disengagement party recently. In my department, they have had the highest disengagement levels of any racial group for the last 7 years.

Missing in Action at the Top
AI/ANs are the least represented racial group in the Senior Executive Service, managerial and supervisory positions. They are underrepresented in pipe line positions that lead to the front lines of power in the federal government.

Brain Drain
They are the least educated racial group in the federal workforce which demands heavy investments in training and development that have been slashed over the years due to reduced federal spending.

They are some of the lowest paid and lowest graded employees among their federal colleagues. Being buried at the depths of most federal agencies prohibits their voice from being heard when major decisions are being made that affects their wellbeing.

Net Loss
Due to their small numbers and low recruitment, separations often outnumber hires resulting in a high net loss. Where larger racial communities can take a hit when it comes to separations, AI/ANs are not afforded that same luxury.

AI/AN employees need allies in the federal government as we struggle to reach our full potential. You can help in this effort. Mentor an AI/AN employee or intern. Become curious about the differences AI/AN employees bring to the workforce and create more training opportunities on these issues. Promote and develop an employee from this group. Work on these concerns year round beyond November. Let’s commit ourselves to the creation of a federal workplace that leaves no employee behind, particularly those from Indian country.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply