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Leadership Roles for Native American Veterans

Who better than Native Americans and Alaska Natives who have served in the U.S. military to also serve their tribal nations in leadership positions?

Many of the skills acquired in the military are transferable to tribal government or in businesses and organizations that provide services to the 574 Native American nations recognized by the federal government. Most of the tribal nations are in 35 states in the continental U.S.; Alaska is home to 229 tribes. Some state governments also recognize additional tribes living in their jurisdictions, according to the National Congress of American Indians.

Since first contact with Europeans centuries ago, the indigenous peoples of the United States have strived to preserve their identities, languages and cultures. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the United States is home to 6.79 million Native Americans, representing about 2.09% of the nation’s total population.

As legally recognized sovereign entities, tribal nations retain ownership of their lands and have authority to determine the structure of their governments. Tribal governments are responsible for delivering quality-of-life services such as housing, healthcare, schools, law enforcement and security, a judicial system, environmental and natural resource management, and solid waste disposal. Tribal nations must also develop and maintain infrastructure such as roads and bridges, water and sewage systems, and utility services such as electricity, gas, telecommunications and broadband. Thriving endeavors for economic development include high tech, hospitality, and industrial services.

With all of their responsibilities and citizens to care for, tribal governments need talented professionals, familiar with the unique needs of these communities, in leadership roles and key positions. That’s why well-trained Native American military veterans can be great candidates for tribal leadership and other positions relevant to tribal affairs and well-being.

Military-Acquired Skills Transfer to Civilian Jobs

Veterans of all branches of the military have received many hours and a wide variety of training, from the physical aspects associated with boot camp to classroom leadership training, which escalates with promotions.

Basic training precedes training for a specific role, which could be of a military nature or in a technical or trade skill, depending on the service member’s duty assignment.

Then there’s strategic planning with its analysis of the best tactics for challenging situations and tactical drills that build teamwork and instill perseverance and discipline.

The professional networking site LinkedIn identifies the top five soft skills that military veterans possess.

Skills Veterans Are Likely to Have

  1. Attention to detail
  2. Integrity
  3. Team leadership
  4. Problem-solving and critical thinking
  5. Dependability

Other Skills Veterans May Have

  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Quality control
  • Teamwork
  • Technical or professional skills
  • Training
  • Work ethic

Strengthen Leadership Skills With a Master’s Degree

Native American veterans with strong transferable skills who seek a tribal leadership position can enhance their employment prospects by earning a master’s degree developed for that purpose.

The 100% online Master of Science in Native American Leadership from Southeastern Oklahoma State University focuses on equipping potential tribal leaders with knowledge culturally relevant to Native American communities, industries and organizations. Students in the online M.S. in Native American Leadership program typically take two years to earn the degree, with the shortest possible completion time being 12 months.

The degree’s distinctive curriculum covers historical and cultural background and context, as well as regulatory factors affecting business in Native American communities. So the degree is also appropriate for contractors and others looking to develop long-term relationships with tribes.

Veterans can contact Southeastern’s Office of Veterans Services to learn about enrollment and financial aid.

Get Help With Transition to Civilian Employment

Native American veterans have access to assistance for transitioning from military to civilian employment. All veterans seeking transition support as well as those who want to learn about their education benefits should contact the U.S. Veterans Administration. The VA’s Office of Tribal Government Relations informs American Indian veterans seeking access to the full range of VA services and benefits.

Learn more about Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Master of Science in Native American Leadership online program.


Chron: What Are Some Skills Soldiers Take Away From the Military?

LinkedIn: The Top 5 Job Skills Veterans Are More Likely to Have Than the Average Professional Soft Skills You Learn in The Military

National Congress of American Indians: About Tribes

Southeastern Oklahoma State University: Veterans Services

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Office of Tribal Government Relations

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: VA Education and Training

World Population Review: Native American Population

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