As for health care, since 1955 the federal government has run the Indian Health Service (IHS), which offers low-cost services, "mostly on reservations, but we also have 33 urban clinics," Anthony D'Angelo, director of the Division of Program Statistics, said from Rockville, Md.
The only one in the Los Angeles area is at 1330 Long Beach Blvd. in Compton. There are other clinics, D'Angelo said, in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Bakersfield and Fresno.
And, according to Bill LaRoque, chief of Urban Health Services for IHS, attempts are being made to reach American Indians with information about federal programs and other social services.
"Say an Indian elder lives with an extended family," LaRoque said. "Maybe that person is eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, but doesn't speak the language. Through our outreach program, we will go to that person. Referral means we will help an American Indian go through the system to get something. Often, they don't know how."
But equally important to a healthy body is a healthy outlook on life, a need whose fulfillment taxes the resources of many residents in a city the size of Los Angeles. Ben Harrison, now on the staff of the American Assn. of Retired Persons, worked two years on the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Reservation.
"When American Indians were on a reservation, they had a social identity," he said. "Then they are suddenly faced with finding one in an urban setting such as Los Angeles. Especially for such a person who is older, there is a big problem finding a substitute support network. Often, because of a lack of anything else, they find this within their own family or in other families."