University of Arizona
NNI | Harvard Project | Udall Foundation |


COURSE: Leadership

Native Nation Building: An Introduction
Remaking the Tools of Governance
Rebuilding Native Nations: What Do Leaders Do?

Course Instructors:

Dr. Manley Begay, Faculty Chair, Native Nations Institute
Dr. Stephen Cornell, Faculty Associate, Native Nations Institute
Herminia Frias, Former Chairwoman, Pascua Yaqui Tribe; and Bush Foundation Partnership Manager,
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 explores how Native nations are reclaiming their governance systems and creating governance tools that fit their cultures and advance their nation-building goals. It provides an overview of the unique set of challenges facing Native nation leaders, and explores the critical role that leadership plays in the nation-building process. Featuring the firsthand perspectives of more than 75 Native leaders and scholars, it paints a sharp contrast between the standard and nation-building approaches to leadership, and presents more than a dozen strategies that nation-building leaders typically pursue.

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


  • The standard approach to leadership inevitably results in failed nation-building efforts.
  • Leaders are not just decision-makers. They also must be students and educators.
  • Nation-building leaders help their nations set strategic priorities and then govern according to those priorities.
  • Defining — and differentiating between — the appropriate roles and responsibilities of leaders, employees and citizens is vital to successful nation building.
  • Nation-building leaders establish and strengthen the rule of law and ensure that everyone is held accountable to that rule — including themselves.
  • Nation-building leaders work to develop capable governance systems and capable people to operate those systems and get the job done today and in the future.
  • Perhaps most importantly, they continually ask themselves, "What legacy am I leaving my nation?"

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?


  1. What are the distinct challenges facing the leaders of Native nations?
  2. What role does leadership play in Native nation building?
  3. How are the standard and nation-building approaches to leadership fundamentally different?
  4. How can leaders move their nations from self-administration to true self-governance?
  5. What are some effective strategies that nation-building leaders commonly pursue?
  6. What is role confusion, where does it come from, and how does it impact Native nation governance and leadership?
  7. What are the appropriate roles of leaders, and what are the inappropriate roles of leaders?
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Native Leaders:
The Strategic Approach to Leadership