University of Arizona
NNI | Harvard Project | Udall Foundation |


COURSE: Intergovernmental Relations

Native Nation Building: An Introduction
Remaking the Tools of Governance
Intergovernmental and Intertribal Relations: Walking the Sovereignty Walk

Course Instructors:

Dr. Manley Begay, Faculty Chair, Native Nations Institute
Dr. Stephen Cornell, Faculty Associate, Native Nations Institute
Jaime Pinkham, Vice President & Native Nations Team Leader,
Bush Foundation, and Former Treasurer, Nez Perce Tribe

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 explores the growth in intergovernmental relationships between Native nations and federal, state, local, and other tribal governments. It examines the pros and cons of litigation versus negotiation in resolving intergovernmental conflicts, and demonstrates how Native nations across Indian Country are using formal intergovernmental agreements as important nation-building tools. Featuring the firsthand perspectives of more than 60 Native leaders and scholars, it presents case studies of several Native nations who have forged creative relationships with governmental and non-governmental partners to advance their strategic priorities and solve common problems.

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

Remaking Governance

  • What governance is, and why it is important
  • The relationship – and differences – between self-determination and governance, and the challenges they present
  • The breadth and diversity of traditional Indigenous governance systems
  • How colonial policies impacted Indigenous governance and governments, and the contemporary legacies of those policies
  • The fundamental difference between self-administration and self-governance
  • How Native nations are remaking their tools of governance

Intergovernmental Relations

  • The factors driving the growth in intergovernmental and intertribal relationship building
  • What Native nations should consider in deciding which path (litigation or negotiation) to pursue to resolve intergovernmental conflicts
  • The ways intergovernmental agreements can serve as nation-building tools
  • That the act of forging partnerships with other governments represents an exercise of tribal sovereignty, not a loss of it
  • Some strategies Native nations can use to find common ground with other governments
  • The keys to building effective, sustainable intergovernmental relationships


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?

Remaking Governance

  1. What is the relationship between self-determination and governance?
  2. What is governance? How is it different from government?
  3. Where does governance fit in the life of your nation?
  4. What impacts did colonialism have on Indigenous governance systems?
  5. How and why are Native nations reclaiming and remaking those systems?
  6. Where does governmental legitimacy come from? How do Native nations achieve it?
  7. Does the present design of your Native nation's government provide adequate tools for meeting the challenges the nation faces?
  8. If not, what steps should the nation take to equip itself with more effective governing tools?

Intergovernmental Relations

  1. Generally speaking, how would you characterize your nation's relationships with other governments (cooperative and supportive, difficult and confrontational, non-existent, etc.)?
  2. Does your nation currently have formal, cooperative agreements with other governments other than the federal government (for example, with a state agency, with a county, with a municipality)? In what areas (law enforcement, social services, taxation, natural resource management, etc.)?
  3. What successful intergovernmental relationships has your nation cultivated, and what benefits have those relationships brought the nation?
  4. Do you know of instances in which your nation attempted to build intergovernmental relationships but failed? If so, what factors contributed to those failures?
  5. Based on what you know, is your nation effective at building productive intergovernmental relations? Why/why not?
  6. Are there things your nation could do to improve its relations with other governments?
  7. Does your nation currently have a dedicated office and/or staff whose job it is to initiate and strengthen relationships with other governments? If not, do you think it should?

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Native Leaders:
Intergovernmental Relationships: Tools for
Nation Building