New Book Provides a Guide for Understanding Native Nation Building

Johnny Cruz
Dec. 21, 2007

"Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Governance and Development" explores the quiet revolution that is underway among the indigenous nations in North America. Native peoples are reclaiming their right to govern themselves and shape their future according to their own diverse and innovative designs.

Published by University of Arizona Press and produced by the UA’s Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, the book traces the contours of the revolution as Native nations turn the dreams of self-determination into a practical reality.

"Rebuilding Native Nations" provides guidelines to creating new governance structures, rewriting constitutions, building justice systems, launching nation-owned enterprises, encouraging citizen entrepreneurs and developing new relationships with non-Native governments.

Stephen Cornell, director of the UA’s Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and faculty associate with the Native Nations Institute, is a contributing author.

According to Cornell, the idea for the book came as a response to a request from American Indian nations about rebuilding indigenous governments and building sustainable economies.

“As we’ve talked to nations across the country some of them have asked if we could put all of this information in one place where they could spend time with it, wrestle with it and think about it,” Cornell said. “The book is really designed for indigenous leaders, for tribal professionals, for students who are interested in the future of Indian nations and for tribal and federal policymakers who are wrestling with some of the issues facing Indian country.”

Much of the book’s content is rooted in the experiences of Native nations themselves and on research conducted at the Native Nations Institute and the Harvard Project. It is a unique resource as it has a dual focus of nation building and presenting research findings.

“It’s based on case experience, grounded research and a lot of talking with Indigenous leaders and citizens,” Cornell said. “There is nothing like this book out there and if there is we haven’t come across it.”

"Rebuilding Native Nations" reflects the diversity of Indian country and profiles the innovative ways tribes across North America are preserving nationhood, culture and language and engaging the next generation of tribal leaders. While the book addresses topic such as economic development, justice systems and social programs, they all tie in to the long-term goal of political autonomy.

“When we talk to Native nations, almost all of them said that their real priority is preserving their nationhood, sustaining the community they have and preserving language and culture,” Cornell said.

Cornell is hopeful that "Rebuilding Native Nations" reaches the hands of federal policymakers. “I think this book explains why the policy of self-determination, supporting tribal decision making power is so important. In more than a century of trying to find solutions to indigenous poverty, self determination is the only thing that’s produced lasting results.”

"Rebuilding Native Nations" was edited by Miriam Jorgensen, associate director of the Native Nations Institute and research director at the Harvard Project. Contributing authors from the UA include Cornell; Manley Begay, director of the Native Nations Institute; Kenneth Grant, senior policy associate at the Native Nations Institute; Joseph P. Kalt, faculty chair for Nation Building Programs at the Native Nations Institute; Ian Wilson Record, manager of leadership and management programs at the Native Nations Institute; and Joan Timeche, assistant director of the Native Nations Institute.


Resources for the media

Holly Dolan, UA Press