WHO WE ARE
In NNI’s usage, nation building refers to the efforts of Native nations to increase their capacities for self-rule and for self-determined, sustainable community and economic development. It involves building institutions of self-government that are culturally appropriate to the nation and that are effective in addressing the nation’s challenges. Nation building involves developing the nation's capacity to make timely, strategically informed decisions about its affairs and to implement those decisions. It involves a comprehensive effort to rebuild societies that work.
A nation-building approach recognizes that Native nations today confront the classic problems of human societies, including:
- how to build effective, sovereign governments;
- how to develop vigorous economies that fit their circumstances and cultures;
- how to solve difficult social problems;
- how to achieve their own objectives in interaction with other governments;
- how to manage their environment and natural resources;
- how to balance change and cultural continuity.
A nation-building approach understands that Native nations are wrestling not only with improving community life but with preserving their distinctive nationhood; not only with inventing programs to solve particular problems but with becoming consistent and effective problem-solvers; not only with finding and training leaders but with how to govern and how to implement effective and culturally appropriate systems of governance; not simply with raising living standards on reservations but with building successful societies. These challenges are foundational, and they require a foundational response.
As Chief Oren Lyons of the Onondaga says, the task is “to rebuild our nations.”
The Native Nations Institute was founded to address this challenge.