Rebuilding Economies


"As Indigenous Peoples enter the 21st century, economic development stands out as a critical challenge for the maintenance of their communities, identities, and status as sovereigns."

-Joan Timeche

In our experience, few Native nations are primarily concerned with making themselves rich. Nor are they merely interested in generating jobs and income, as important as those things may be in improving the quality of life in Native communities. Most are trying to gain the wherewithal to address a more ambitious set of needs and concerns.

Three purposes appear to be particularly important in the economic development efforts of many Indian nations:

  1. To provide their citizens with economic opportunities so they can support themselves and live satisfying lives in their home communities. Asked a few years ago about the impact of development on Choctaw culture and community, Philip Martin, Chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, responded, “Well, it used to be that everyone moved away, but now they’re all coming back.”
  2. To provide Native communities with the means to pursue their own social and cultural objectives—from health care, housing, and elder and youth services to the revitalization of language and culture—on their own terms.
  3. To support Native governance, empowering their nations to implement their own governance designs and carry out such central governance functions as law making and enforcement, the management of civil affairs, the management of lands and other natural resources, education, and so forth, thereby reducing crippling dependence on outside funds and decision-makers.

Publications & Projects

The Nature and Components of Economic Development in Indian Country

An exploration of the changing patterns of Indian Country economic development that debunks myths and misconceptions and suggests policy options for both Indigenous nations and the federal government...


What Determines Indian Economic Success Evidence from Tribal and Individual Indian Enterprises

Prior analysis of American Indian nations’ unemployment, poverty, and growth rates indicates that poverty in Indian Country is a problem of institutions–particularly political institutions–not a problem of economics per se. Using unique data on Indian-owned enterprises, this paper sheds light on one of the core institutions of enterprise success–corporate governance...


Business Enterprises Toolbox

An interactive toolbox of narrated videos, viewing notes, maps, and carefully selected online exhibitions that share the stories of successful business enterprise and programs. Learn how to build and implement business codes, launch your own Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a Federally-Chartered Section 17 Corporation, and much more...


Two Approaches to Economic Development on American Indian Reservations- One Works, the Other Doesn't

As much of the world knows, American Indian nations are poor. What much of the world doesn't know is that in the last quarter century, a number of these nations have broken away from the prevailing pattern of poverty. They have moved aggressively to take control of their futures and rebuild their nations, rewriting constitutions, reshaping economies...

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Presentations & Interviews

This Is What Capacity Looks Like: Building Development Muscle in Rural and Native Nation Communities

This Is What Capacity Looks Like: Building Development Muscle in Rural and Native Nation Communities

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