Cherokee Nation’s burial aid for needy families

03/05/2019 01:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Human Services Burial Assistance Program continues to help families with funeral expenses. For approximately 20 years, the program has helped provide tribal citizens financial aid to bury family members who have passed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs paying a portion of those expenses.

“It’s for people that have little or no resources to bury a loved one,” CN Family Assistance Manager Angela King said.

In fiscal year 2018, BAP provided aid for 331 burials. The tribe’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

The program is designed to alleviate financial stress that comes with funeral costs for low-income families. The deceased’s immediate family’s income must not exceed greater than 150 percent of the National Poverty Level income standards.

King said for example a family of two must not exceed $2,058 a month.

To be eligible, the deceased must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe; have resided in the CN jurisdiction six months prior to date of death; must not, or family must not, have resources that exceed $2,900, which include life insurance, veteran’s benefits, savings, checking or prepaid burial; and must select a funeral home that has an active burial contract with the tribe.

The CN is contracted with many funeral homes in Oklahoma. The CN and BIA pay depending on two options offered through the BAP.

Option 1 is restricted to CN citizens, if eligible, and services will be paid in full to eliminate financial burdens. This service provides at minimum a 20-gauge steel casket, concrete outer container/grave liner, tent and cemetery set up, memorial package, death certificate, burial notice in a local newspaper and traditional professional services provided by a contracted funeral home to conduct the service.

The CN and BIA payout for the Option 1 contracted service must not exceed $3,600 for the service to be paid in full.

Option 2 is available to any citizen of a federally recognized tribe, who must meet all income and eligibility standards. The selected funeral home will provide services for any eligible non-CN citizen, as negotiated by the funeral home and the family. The CN will make a single payment up to $2,800 toward the service’s total cost. The family is responsible for the remaining balance due toward the funeral home costs.

An eligible Cherokee family that wishes to switch from Option 1 to Option 2 may do so under the negotiation between funeral home and family. The CN will make a single payment of $2,800 toward funeral costs with the family responsible for the remaining balance.

King said the reason some families switch is because a family member wanting a different service not provided in Option 1. She said the family is allowed to switch but is responsible for any extra expenses.

“Since this is an income-based program it has to be someone outside of the household that is responsible for the remaining amount. Because we don’t want that family owing a funeral home because if they really can’t afford a funeral they’re going to pick the option 1 where they don’t owe anything,” King said.

For more information, call 918-453-5000 or email

Needed Documents

1. Residential verification that the deceased has 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, statement from a nursing home, 911 statements or any other document including a physical address.

2. Tribal citizenship card.

3. Proof of income for the previous 12 months for the deceased and his/her immediate family. Verification documents include, but are not limited to pay stubs, copies of benefit checks if they cover the previous 12 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 and veterans benefits statements, etc.

5. Social Security Card
About the Author
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing ... • 918-772-4223
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing ...


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