University of Arizona
NNI | Harvard Project | Udall Foundation |


COURSE: Economic Development

Native Nation Building: An Introduction
Nation-Owned Enterprises: Building and Sustaining Success
Citizen Entrepreneurship: An Important Economic Development Tool

Course Instructors:

Dr. Manley Begay, Faculty Chair, Native Nations Institute
Dr. Stephen Cornell, Faculty Associate, Native Nations Institute
Dr. Joseph P. Kalt, Co-Director, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Joan Timeche, Executive Director, Native Nations Institute

Estimated Learning Time: 15 to 18 hours
Deadline to Complete Course: Nine (9) weeks from date of enrollment
Price: $225.00

Course Study Guide

This course presents the five critical keys to successful nation building, and begins to explore why these each of these keys is so important to sustainable economic and community development. It examines the challenges that Native nations face in building diversified, sustainable economies and the ways some nations have overcome those challenges. It explores what a nation needs to create an environment that fosters successful nation-owned and citizen-owned businesses.

List of Native Leaders and Scholars


By the end of this course, students will understand:

Native Nation Building

  • The basic political and socioeconomic challenges facing Native nations today
  • Why the Standard Approach is a failed recipe for successful Native nation building
  • The five components of the Nation-Building Approach and why Native nations who choose this approach are better able to achieve their development goals

Nation-Owned Enterprises

  • The evolution of economic development in Indian country
  • The goal of economic development for Native nations
  • What a "thick" economy looks like, and why it is necessary
  • The differences between a dependent economy and a productive economy
  • The key building blocks of a productive economy
  • The importance of insulating business from politics
  • The separated model versus the council-run model: Which works better?
  • The role of transparency in successful nation-owned enterprises
  • Appropriate roles of councils, boards and CEOs
  • The key foundations of good corporate governance

Citizen Entrepreneurship

  • The many economic, social, cultural and political benefits of small businesses
  • The fundamental challenges starting and growing a business on Native nation lands
  • The cultural and historical roots of those challenges
  • The critical role that a Native nation's governance environment plays in small business development
  • The ways Native nation governments either intentionally or inadvertently discourage small business development
  • Proven strategies Native nations can employ to foster businesses owned by their citizens


Native Nation Building

  1. What is nation building? 

  2. What explains the success that some Native nations have had in building sustainable, self-determined economies? 

  3. What are the fundamental differences between the Standard Approach and the Nation-Building Approach, and why does one work so much better than the other? 

  4. Why are capable governing institutions so critical to successful nation building? 

  5. What role does and should culture play in rebuilding Native nations?

Nation-Owned Enterprises

  1. What type of economy (dependent or productive) does your nation currently have?
  2. Has/how has your nation's economy evolved?
  3. What types of nation-owned and citizen- owned enterprises currently exist on nation lands? Beyond the nation's lands?
  4. What is the top priority of the enterprises that your nation owns and operates?
  5. Do your nation's nation-owned enterprises more closely resemble the council-run model or the separated model?
  6. With respect to your nation's nation-owned enterprises, are the roles of your nation's elected officials, enterprise CEO, enterprise board of directors, and enterprise managers clear?

Citizen Entrepreneurship

  1. How many citizen-owned businesses currently exist on your nation? What kinds of businesses are they?
  2. Do the nation's citizens currently have opportunities to purchase needed goods and services on the nation? Or do they need to leave the nation to obtain them?
  3. Does the culture of your nation support value individual success? Is the entrepreneurial spirit viewed positively by community members?
  4. Does your nation currently charge a tax on goods and services sold by small businesses on the reservation? How is that tax structured?
  5. If a citizen of your nation wanted to start a business on nation land, what formal process would they have to follow? How long does that process typically take?
  6. What is the state of your nation's physical infrastructure? Is it adequate to support citizen-owned businesses?
  7. Does your nation's government provide any sort of financial or technical support for citizens who own their own business or who are thinking about starting one? Or are there other organizations working locally that provide that support?
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