Increasing Native American Elder Access to Employment Opportunities

Participants in Chief Seattle Club's Native Works employment program

The Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL) has awarded $199,550 to Chief Seattle Club to provide employment, training, and job placement services to their elders. The funded program will support the sustainable growth of a strong, successful community program, Chief Seattle Club’s Native Works.

A much-needed expansion of a community-centered employment program

Three participants in Chief Seattle Club's Native Works artists program

Apprentices in Chief Seattle Club’s Native Works program graduated the program and gained full time employment.

Of American Indian/Alaska Native older adults in King County, 20% have income that is below the Federal Poverty Level. In comparison, only 8.4% of all older adults in King County, regardless of race or ethnicity, has income below the Federal Poverty Level. The Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy will support expansion of a program that addresses this disproportionality. Native Works will focus on providing Native American clients, particularly senior clients, who are unemployed with a career pathway aimed at increasing clients’ financial stability.

“Chief Seattle Club lifts our hands in gratitude to King County for supporting Native Works, our trauma-informed indigenous-designed job training program. Elders are a treasured community resource, and we are grateful to King County for recognizing and supporting our work with Native Elders,” said Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director of the Chief Seattle Club

VSHSL funding will enable Chief Seattle Club to hire an employment specialist to expand Native Works, a successful program which has a current waitlist for enrollment.

Launched in December 2017, Native Works leverages the expertise of elders to provide mentorship to program participants along with five core services that, together, help create a career pathway for the program’s Native American clients. These core services are:

  • Employment assessment
  • Individualized employment plans
  • Case management
  • Job development and job retention
  • Client support services

For more information on how to enroll in the Native Works program, contact the Native Works manager Lacey Stevenson Warrior at 206-473-8425.

Senior financial stability through employment and training

King County’s senior population is rapidly growing. By 2040, 30% of King County’s population (over 800,000 individuals) will be at least 55 years old. A large increase in the number of older adults means that current supports will need to be scaled up to meet these older adults’ needs. Many seniors face challenges exacerbated by poverty, living on a fixed income and rising costs of living. Competing priorities for seniors living on a fixed income can mean more of their budget goes to maintaining housing and basic needs, leaving very little income to cover unplanned emergencies.

A strategy of the VSHSL is to help seniors connect to employment opportunities and support them in succeeding as employees to achieve financial stability. Employment supports include preparing older people for appropriate employment and helping to increase their household income, reduce their rate of poverty, and foster self-reliance and connection to community.

screenshot from a video about Native Works artists

Click on the image above to open a video about a Native artist who received Native Works helps Native artists experiencing homelessness.

Connections across King County’s Department of Community and Human Services

Chief Seattle Club is also partnering with King County’s Housing, Homelessness and Community Development Division to launch a modular housing project in Sodo focused on serving Native American and Alaska Native people. To read about the opening of Eagle Village, click here.

For a list of open and upcoming VSHSL funding opportunities, visit

This article originally appeared in King County Cultivating Connections, a blog produced by the King County Department of Community & Human Services, on Nov. 14, 2019 and later in the December 2019 issue of AgeWise King County. Photos courtesy of Chief Seattle Club. Photo at top shows elder apprentices in Chief Seattle Club’s Native Works.