About Us

About Us

NOTE: Timeline is not comprehensive. Many events, organizations, and activities have been omitted.
Please contact nni@arizona.edu with questions.

Located on Tohono O’odham Nation traditional homelands, the Native Nations Institute (NNI) was founded in 2001 by The University of Arizona and the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation as a self-determination, self-governance, and development resource for Native nations. It is housed at the university's Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy.

NNI assists in building capable Native nations that can effectively pursue and ultimately realize their own political, economic, and community development objectives. This effort, which we call nation building, is the central focus of NNI's programs.

NNI provides Native nations and other policy makers with accessible research and policy analysis of governance and development in Indian Country and with comprehensive, professional training and development programs designed to meet the needs of Indigenous leadership.

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The Native Nations Institute is the leading research, education, and outreach organization supporting the nation-rebuilding efforts of Indigenous peoples worldwide as they seek to strengthen their internal governance capacities and realize their own political, economic, and community development objectives.


NNI works with Native nations and organizations to advance Indigenous self-determination, strengthen Indigenous governance capacities, and support Indigenous community and economic development through research, in-person and online education, and the provision of digital resources and tribal services.

The International Advisory Council, composed of Indigenous leaders from the United States, Canada, and Australia has been closely involved in the development of NNI. The council provides advice and oversight on an ongoing basis and meets twice a year to advise NNI and help set the organization's strategic direction.

NNI is an outgrowth of the research programs of the Harvard Kennedy School Project on Indigenous Governance and Development (Harvard Project), previously known as the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, an organization with which it retains close ties and continues to conduct research and deliver services to Indigenous nations in North America and beyond.

NNI also maintains a close working partnership with the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program in the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. The two entities jointly run the Indigenous Governance Program, a set of executive education and university credit courses taught by an internationally renowned faculty and designed for professionals and students working with Native nations and organizations.

Core financial support for NNI comes from the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, the University of Arizona, and other funders.

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