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August 24, 2007

Tribal Economic Development

The State of Native Nations: Conditions Under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination (Amazon's link here), a collaboratively written book by scholars affiliated with the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development has just been published by Oxford University Press (curiously bearing a 2008 copyright date).  A virtual book tour with synopsis and table of contents is available here

This book is important for those with an interest in Indian (Native American) poverty because the Harvard Project is the leading research center working on tribal economic development and because this book, by virtual of its collaborative nature, reflects the thinking of a number of leading scholars on this topic. 

According to the Harvard Project's self-description on their website: "At the heart of the Harvard Project is the systematic, comparative study of social and economic development on American Indian reservations. What works, where and why? Among the key research findings:                                       

Sovereignty Matters. When Native nations make their own decisions about what development approaches to take, they consistently out-perform external decision makers—on matters as diverse as governmental form, natural resource management,         economic development, health care, and social service provision.


Institutions Matter. For development to take hold, assertions of sovereignty must be backed by capable institutions of governance. Nations do this as they adopt stable decision rules, establish fair and independent mechanisms for dispute resolution, and separate politics from day-to-day business and program management.


Culture Matters. Successful economies stand on the shoulders of legitimate, culturally grounded institutions of self-government. Indigenous societies are diverse; each nation must equip itself with a governing structure, economic system, policies, and procedures that fit its own contemporary culture.


Leadership Matters. Nation building requires leaders who introduce new knowledge and experiences, challenge assumptions, and propose change. Such leaders, whether elected,    community, or spiritual, convince people that things can be different and inspire them to   take action.

As someone whose own research centers in part on tribal economic development, here and here, I know the Harvard Project's work to be worthy of study.  Their Honoring Nations Program does a great job highlighting tribal government initiatives and programs that are worthy of emulation by other tribes. 

Another recent tribal economic development article of note is a recent one by Gavin Clarkson (Univ. of Michigan School of Information), Tribal Bondage: Statutory Shackles and Regulatory Restraints on Tribal Economic Development.                           

-E.R. erosser@wcl.american.edu

August 24, 2007 | Permalink


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