Tribal Burial Assistance Resource Guide
Funeral directors – especially in urban areas – have noted that they do not always know when they are working with an American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) client or how to contact a Tribal government when they need to. Funeral directors about their client’s race and Tribal affiliation. Asking these questions can help connect families to resources and financial assistance after the loss of a loved ones, and possibly improve the accuracy of death certificates.
To address this problem, NCUIH has designed a non-exhaustive list of contacts for anyone involved in the funeral process of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) people, including families and funeral homes. The contacts on this list can be a helpful first step in identifying Tribal burial assistance programs, which are sometimes provided by Tribes or other government organizations and can offset the financial impact that families of the recently departed face. This assistance can include (but are not limited to) cost assistance for burials, final dispensation, and even funeral services. To provide feedback or add a resource to this list, please contact our Research and Public Health Programs division.
How to Use the Guide:
This resource guide includes the names, numbers, and amount of assistance available (if known), and website links for Tribes who are known to offer some form of funeral assistance. There is also a secondary, general Tribal government contact for each that can be used as backup in case of broken weblinks or numbers. The list is sorted alphabetically by Tribe name and can be filtered or sorted by state. This offers a simple way to identify provide information about the available support for the AI/AN families.
This guide is composed of Tribes in the United States that have an active burial assistance program, publicly listed on their website. After determining the tribal affiliation(s) of the family with whom you are working, search for the corresponding Tribe in the document. Then visit the website link or contact the Tribe to confirm what assistance is available, eligibility criteria, and how to access resources for families.
How did NCUIH create this list?
NCUIH created this guide by searching online for publicly available information and/or applications for burial assistance programs for each Federally-recognized Tribe. We only listed federally-recognized tribes with online public information, so this list is not exhaustive. Instead, it should be used as a quick reference guide on public resources.
There are 574 federally-recognized Tribes in the United States, each with their own cultural practices and resources (in addition to state recognized Tribes). NCUIH obtained information for about a fifth of Tribes as of 2/24/2022 (or 123 Tribal contacts). However, if a contact is not listed here, it does not mean the Tribe does not offer some form of assistance. For more information on tribal government contacts, please consult NCAI’s tribal directory.
The following resources may also help connect AI/AN families with financial assistance after a death:
- FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Funds: Families may be eligible for funds when an AI/AN person died due to COVID-19. According to FEMA, “under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA is providing financial assistance for any COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.”
- Funds for AI/AN Veteran’s: According to the Veteran’s Administration (VA), spouses and families of American Indian/Alaska Native veterans may be eligible for a variety of burial benefits. These can include opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Certificate—at no cost to the family. For more information, please see the following factsheet and Planning Your Legacy: VA Survivors and Burial Benefits Kit. The VA can be contacted online or at the following phone numbers:
- For burial, survivors’ pension, or other benefits: 1-877-294-6380
- For the status of VA headstones and markers: 1-800-697-6947
- For bereavement counseling: 1-202-461-6530
- Direct Assistance via Financial Assistance & Social Services (FASS) is provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). FASS consists of direct funding for a variety of social services and emergencies, and includes a burial assistance program which “provides funds to assist with the burial expenses of deceased indigent Indians whose estates do not have sufficient resources to meet funeral expenses.”
- For Tribal Members from Central California, the BIA Burial Assistance Program application is clearly listed online. “The BIA Burial Assistance Program is a one-time payment of up to $2,500 towards burial/funeral expenses. Payments are made, on behalf of the deceased, directly to the mortuary. The BIA cannot reimburse family members for funeral expenses. The deceased must be a member of a federally recognized tribe. Immediate family members may fill out a Burial Assistance application and submit the required documents for the deceased.”
- For funeral homes in Oklahoma, the Southern Plains Indian Health Board (SPIHB) has created a thorough Tribal Burial Resource Guide. This resource guide lists the names, numbers, website links, and other relevant contact information for tribes offering assistance, and provides a detailed description of each assistance program. These booklets are available for printing and reference via SPIHB.
This website was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award (NOFO OT18-1802, titled Strengthening Public Health Systems and Services through National Partnerships to Improve and Protect the Nation’s Health) funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.