Family Assistance

General Assistance

General Assistance may provide financial assistance to eligible Indian families for essential living needs.  Assistance is based on welfare payment standards and is considered a secondary resource to the Department of Human Services TANF program and Social Security SSI program.  Families who are eligible for TANF and SSI are required by federal law to apply for TANF and to comply with their guidelines and requirements.

When families are not eligible for General Assistance or any other program within Family Assistance, they are referred to other agencies.  Cherokee Nation Family Advocates are social workers who work closely with other agencies to keep updated with their programs, eligibility guidelines and availability of funds. A person or family cannot receive General Assistance from another tribe while they are receiving General Assistance from the Cherokee Nation.  Family Assistance office locations and hours of operation are listed in a downloadable document at the bottom of this page.  Documentation is required for all eligibility criteria list below.

To be eligible, families must:

  1. Be a citizen of a federally-recognized tribe;
  2. Live within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction; and
  3. Not have sufficient resources to meet the essential living needs. 

Tribal Emergency Assistance (TEA)

This program was designed for families that are not eligible for any other resource/program but have an ‘imminent need”. Imminent need is a basic need of an individual or family that if not addressed within 24-48 hours or less may result in hunger, loss of shelter, medical peril, job loss or family breakdown.  Tribal Emergency Assistance can only be accessed one time. 

To be eligible, families must:

  1. Have at least one member that is a Cherokee Nation citizen. If, however, the family has already received assistance from another tribe, the family will be referred back to that tribe for further assistance.
  2. Live within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction.
  3. Household income may not exceed Cherokee Nation income eligibility standards.
  4. Not be eligible for or have exhausted eligibility for other services from existing Cherokee Nation programs or any federal, state, local or other tribe’s resources and/or programs.

Burial Assistance

Burial Assistance is intended to relieve or totally eliminate the financial hardship associated with traditional funeral cost for families with little or no resources. Being a citizen of the Cherokee Nation or any other federally recognized tribe does not automatically make a person eligible for burial assistance benefits. There are two options for eligible families to select from. Eligible families must select one of the funeral homes that have an active contract with the Cherokee Nation. (See the downloadable document found at the bottom of this page). 

A.  The deceased must:

  1. Be a citizen of a federally-recognized tribe, verified by a tribal citizenship card (a blue card for Cherokee Nation citizens). A white CDIB card is not proof of citizenship and will not be accepted.
  2. Have been a resident of the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction for six months prior to date of death.


B.  The deceased and his or her immediate family may not:

  1. Have resources (life insurance, veteran’s benefits, cash, savings accounts, etc.) exceeding $2,900.00.
  2. Have income for the previous month greater than 150% of the National Poverty Level income standards.  For example:  For a household of two, income cannot exceed $2,030.00 for the previous month or $24,360.00 for the past twelve months.
    Verification that the deceased lived within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction for the past six months. The document must verify the physical location of the residence (utility bill or a rent receipt with the physical location listed), Department of Humans Service statement, nursing home statement, 911 statements, or any other document including a physical address.
  2. Tribal Citizenship card (a white CDIB card will not be accepted as proof of tribal citizenship).
  3. Proof of income for the previous twelve months for the deceased and his or her immediate family.  Verification documents include, but are not limited to:  pay stubs, copies of benefit checks if they cover the previous twelve months, benefit award letters, etc.
  4. Proof of all available financial resources including but not limited to:  bank statements, savings account statements, life insurance police, veterans benefits statements, etc.
  5. Social Security Card
Option #1 is restricted to eligible Cherokee Nation Tribal Citizens.  If this option is selected, Cherokee Nation will pay for the service in full (less any available family resources).  Option #1 is very limited and cannot be altered in any way. It includes a 20 gage steel casket, concrete outer container/grave liner (non-biodegradable), cemetery set up including a tent, memorial package, one death certificate, burial notice in local paper and the traditional professional service provide by the contracted funeral home conducting the service.

If an eligible family selects any type of cremation, the funeral home will explain the contracted options available to the family and if services are within the contract, this service will also be paid in full.        

Option #2 is for any eligible family where the deceased is not a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, but is a citizen of another federally-recognized tribe. The eligible family can select any funeral service the funeral home will sell them and the Cherokee Nation will pay a one-time maximum payment of $2,800.00 (minus available resources). The family will be totally responsible for all costs above this amount. The family must meet income, resource and residential requirements for this service.

This option is also available to eligible Cherokee Nation Tribal citizens that may have family members (not living in the deceased’s immediate household) that wish to upgrade the contracted service identified in Option #1. The eligible Cherokee family can select any service the funeral home will sell them and the Cherokee Nation will make the one-time payment in the amount of $2,800.00 (less available resources) and the family will be totally responsible for paying the balance.

Cherokee Nation has active contract with many funeral homes to provide all services outlined in the Options listed above.  If the family selects a funeral home that is not listed in the downloadable document found at the bottom of this page, please contact one of the Cherokee Nation offices. This list is always being updated.   

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

The Low Income Home Energy (LIHEAP) Assistance Program is an energy assistance program designed to assist low income Indian households with home heating, cooling, and crisis intervention assistance.  Residential Heating Assistance helps eligible households with their primary source of heating, including wood, wood pellets, natural gas, propane, electric (total electric homes), kerosene, and coal.  When funds are available, Summer Cooling helps the elderly and disabled households with electric expenses associated with Summer Cooling.  Crisis Intervention may help to families who have experienced hardship and are in jeopardy of getting their utilities turned off or have already had a cut-off.  

Residential Heating and Summer Cooling payments are based on the amount of income, energy source, and family size.  The benefit payment will be paid directly to the energy supplier/vendor.  Crisis Intervention is a one-time assistance payment that is paid directly to the vendor.  If funding permits, this program usually starts runs from January till the middle of March.  The payment standard is based on need and cannot exceed $250.00.

Applicants 60 years of age & older or disabled individuals will be given priority service. All other eligible households will be assisted as funding permits.

Emergency Housing Assistance

Emergency Housing Assistance is a one-time payment to a landlord or mortgage company to keep families safe and in secure housing.  Assistance is always made to the landlord or mortgage facility and in some cases utility companies.  Payment is based on the family’s need and their ability to remain self- sufficient.  The family’s income cannot exceed the current HUD income guidelines and the family must have sufficient income to maintain their housing.  A family can only receive service in this category once in a three year period of time.  

Priority is given to assist those that are:
1. Currently living in shelters
2. Homeless families or individuals living on the streets or in cars.
3. Recent disasters such as burnouts, total loss of a home due to flood, fire or tornado.
4. Elderly persons
5. Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare cases
6. Families residing in overcrowded conditions.
7. Families living in Cherokee Nation or state-subsidized housing and are at risk of becoming homeless. 

Elder Services

The Elder Services encourages our tribal citizens to be self-sufficient, ensure that vulnerable elders are protected, and provides services in a manner that acknowledges and preserves our tribal culture.  Cherokee Nation citizens age 50 and above who are frail, low-income, who may have difficulty performing daily living functions, or who may be disabled may receive assistance.  Special emphasis is placed on assisting elders who are geographically and socially isolated or who have limited English speaking ability.

Nutrition Services

Nutrition Services provides congregate (meals eaten together as a group) and homebound meals to elderly Indians in the fourteen Senior Nutrition Sites operated in the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation.  Socialization Activities such as games, holiday events, arts and crafts are encouraged at each nutrition site and Elder Services staff members assist with the activity. 

Cherokee Family Caregivers

Cherokee Family Caregivers is a respite program for Cherokee’s who are providing primary care to an elder age 55 and above that cannot complete 2 or more functions of daily living (i.e., bathing, dressing, toileting etc.) or for Cherokee’s who are the primary caregiver to children under age 18 who reside with them in the home (Grandparents Raising Grandchildren).  A $400.00 per quarter voucher may be provided to a person who is hired by the Elder’s Primary Caregiver to relieve fhem so that they are able to rest.  Training for the primary caregiver and the paid caregiver is offered, referrals to other resources are made, and counseling is located for the program participants.

Elder Advocacy

Elder Advocates are social workers (5) stationed in the major field offices Sallisaw, Jay, Catoosa, Vinita and Tahlequah.  They held the elder gain access to services, referral to other services provided by Cherokee Nation as well as services provided by other agencies, and information to the customer.  The Elder Advocates act as liaisons with the state and other programs.  This person may have limited English speaking ability. 

Victim of Crime Advocacy

De-tsa-da-do-hi-yu-se-s-di (Believe in, Honor and Respect One Another)

This program helps elder victims of crime access services from different resources so they can get their life on track after a crime has been committed against them. Victim Advocates are professionals trained to support victims of crime. Advocates offer victims information, emotional support, and help finding resources and filling out paperwork. Victim Advocates go to court with victims. Advocates may also contact organizations, such as criminal justice or social service agencies, to get help or information for victims. Support groups and provide in-person counseling services are also available. Victim advocates may also be called victim service providers, victim/witness coordinators, or victim/witness specialists.  Services are not limited to tribal members but are open to all victims of elder abuse.

Comprehensive Tribal Victim Assistance Program

This program provides services to support and strengthen victims of elder abuse.  Services are not limited to tribal members but are available to all victims of elder abuse. Case Managers provide comprehensive case management, conduct victim centered assessment of abuse reports, conduct assessments to determine eligibility for other programs, ensure victims have access to referral sources and work with family members and third party interests on behalf of the elder victim.  Clients must live within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction.

Elder In Need

The Elder in Need (EIN) program is an energy assistance program specifically for Cherokee elders who are age 60 and above.  The elder must reside in the Cherokee Nation jurisdictional area and meet an income guideline.  For those who are eligible, payments are made twice a year in, March and August, for the utility bill of the participant’s choice.  Generally, the payments are $200 each.

Elder Housing and Protective Services

This program’s primary focus is keeping Elders (age 60+) and Vulnerable Adults safe and in secure housing by helping with rent, mortgage, utility assistance, and building materials. 


  • Cherokee Nation Tribal Citizenship
  • Within 14 county Jurisdictional area
  • Income Guidelines

For additional information call 918-453-5000
or 1-800-256-0671 toll free