University of Arizona
NNI | Harvard Project | Udall Foundation |

The Research

Across the United States and elsewhere around the world, Native peoples are involved in a vibrant and enormously creative effort to rebuild their governance systems and create and implement development strategies in ways that are appropriate to their distinct cultures and circumstances.

In our conversations with Indigenous leaders and managers over the past 25 years, two crucial policy analysis and research needs have emerged: the need to document what’s working in various community development and governance arenas, and the need for reliable, rigorous analyses that tribal decision-makers can use in their drive to rejuvenate time-honored strategies and tools or develop new ones. These needs underscore the fact that Native nation leaders and citizens make decisions that often have transformative impacts on their societies, and yet they operate without the informational and analytical resources that decision-makers at the state and federal levels take for granted.

Such concerns drive the Native Nations Institute’s policy analysis and research work. Building on the pioneering work of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, NNI researchers have affirmed the conclusion that Native nation building—the construction of effective governing institutions that are designed to meet the unique needs and priorities of Native nations—is the key to successful development in Indian Country. Moving forward from that core finding, NNI’s policy analysis and research efforts seek:

  • To more fully explain the conditions under which Native nations in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere successfully initiate and sustain social and economic development.
  • To expand knowledge about the issues affecting Native nations, and provide specific policy analysis and advice.
  • To catalog the ways in which Indigenous leaders can continue to improve their tribes’ capabilities for self-determination, governance, and development.

This curriculum represents one of the growing number of ways that NNI is returning the results of this research and analysis to Native nations, peoples and communities.