The next generation of indigenous development

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The next generation of indigenous development a synthesis model for transforming development on the reservations in the United States
Wilkerson, Brian E
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v, 170 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Indian reservations -- Economic conditions ( lcsh )
Economic development -- Philosophy ( lcsh )
Indians of North America -- Economic conditions ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 159-170).
General Note:
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Statement of Responsibility:
by Brian E. Wilkerson.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
66396620 ( OCLC )
LD1193.A78 2005m W54 ( lcc )

Full Text
The Next Generation of Indigenous Development: A
Synthesis Model for Transforming Development on
the Reservations in the United States
Brian E. Wilkerson
B.S., University of Cincinnati, 1994
A thesis submitted to the University of
Colorado at Denver in partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree of Masters of Urban and
Regional Planning
i Ai

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
2005 Brian E. Wilkerson
All Rights Reserved

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
This Thesis for the Masters of Urban and Regional
Planning degree by Brian E. Wilkerson has been
approved by
Tom Clark

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Wilkerson, Brian E. (Masters of Urban and Regional Planning)
The Next Generation of Indigenous Development: A Synthesis Model for Transforming
Development on the Reservations in the United States
Thesis directed by Professor Tom Clark
Indian reservations in the United States are some of the most economically devastated
areas in the country. Reservations lag behind most populations in almost every indicator
of economic and human health including infant mortality, disease rates, life expectancy,
per capita income, and a host of others. Despite decades of focus through government
programs to improve the economic health of the reservations, these statistics are
unimproved. This thesis argues that the explanations of failure of economic development
on the reservations are rooted in the imposition of a capitalist-based economy, and its
accompanying economic development strategies, onto the reservations. Capitalist
ideology may be fundamentally incompatible with the worldview of indigenous peoples.
Reservation underdevelopment may be compared to similar failures of international
development in places like Africa and Latin America. Western economic models create
disruption and cultural devastation on reservations. This thesis presents a new definition
and model for indigenous development that is focused on changing the goals, methods,
and measurements associated with economic development on reservations. It presents
five critical foundations, and a number of new measures and techniques to help improve
reservation economic development. This research is primarily focused on Indian
reservations in the United States, but may provide implications for indigenous peoples
around the world.
Tom Clark

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
I dedicate this thesis to my wife, Katie, and daughter, Maggie for their endless patience
and encouragement through the long journey of creating this work.
I also dedicate this to the countless leaders and members of Native American Nations
across the United States who are the inspiration for this work.

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Table of Contents
1. Cultural Foundations of Economic Development........................................5
1.1 Introduction..............................................................5
1.2 Capitalist Roots of Economic Development..................................7
1.3 Failures of International Development Programs...........................12
1.4 Contrast to Native American Worldview....................................16
1.4.1 Structural Adjustment in Africa.................................17
1.4.2 Contrast with the worldview of indigenous peoples...............20
Table 1.1: Contrasting the Views of Western Society and Indigenous Peoples....25
Table 1.2: Government vs. Pan-Indian View of Economic Development.............26
1.5 Measures Drive Strategies................................................31
2. Reservation Economic Development Current Practice................................36
2.1 Past Development Efforts on the Reservations.............................39
Table 2.1: How Economic Development Initiatives are Chosen....................48
Table 2.2: Drivers for Economic Development Programs..........................49
Table 2.3 Factors That Have the Most Potential to Improve Development Success.51
Figure 2.1: Comparison of Percent Employed and Percent Below the Poverty Line.57
Figure 2.2: Comparison of Per Capita Income Derived from Mineral Leases and Overall
Reservation Area..............................................................58
Figure 2.3: Comparison of Per Capita Income Derived from Mineral Leases and Percent
Below the Poverty Line........................................................59
2.4 Gaming...................................................................60
2.5 Model of Economic Development Evolution..................................66
Figure 2.4: Archetypical Evolution of Reservation Economic Development........67
2.6 Roots of Failure.........................................................69
2.7 Best Practices in Native American Communities............................73
2.7.1 Governance and Culture..........................................73

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
2.7.2 Relationships with Outside Entities...............................75
2.7.3 Environmental Management..........................................76
3. Alternative Frameworks and New Synthesis..............................................79
3.1 Introduction................................................................79
3.2 Microenterprise.............................................................80
3.3 Reforms in International Development........................................83
3.4 Other Success Stories.......................................................84
3.5 New Synthesis...............................................................86
3.6 Success Factors.............................................................93
Figure 3.1: Indigenous Development Key Success Factors...........................93
3.6.1 Governance........................................................94
3.6.2 Measures..........................................................99
Table 3.1: Development Measures from Indigenous Communities.....................109
3.6.3 Collaboration....................................................110
3.6.4 Techniques.......................................................114
3.6.5 Investment.......................................................124
3.7 Beginning the Journey......................................................127
4. Conclusion...........................................................................129
Select Bibliography......................................................................159

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Figure 2.1: Comparison of Percent Employed and Percent Below the Poverty Line.57
Figure 2.2: Comparison of Per Capita Income Derived from Mineral Leases and Overall
Reservation Area..............................................................58
Figure 2.3: Comparison of Per Capita Income Derived fmm Mineral Leases and Percent
Below the Poverty Line 59
Figure 2.4: Archetypical Evolution of Reservation Economic Development........67
Figure 3.1: Indigenous Development Key Success Factors........................93

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Table 1.1: Contrasting the Views of Western Society and Indigenous Peoples....25
Table 1.2: Government vs. Pan-Indian View of Economic Development.............26
Table 2.1: How Economic Development Initiatives are Chosen....................48
Table 2.2: Drivers for Economic Development Programs..........................49
Table 2.3 Factors That Have the Most Potential to Improve Development Success.51
Table 3.1: Development Measures from Indigenous Communities...................109

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
1. Cultural Foundations of Economic Development
1.1 Introduction
Economic development on American Indian reservations has been the topic of
extensive research and discussion since the beginning of US Indian policy. Numerous
theorists, economic development practitioners, Native American leaders, activists, and
Indian people themselves have been searching for a means to provide a sustainable living
on the reservations while preserving their culture and lifeways. This dialogue is critical as
Indian reservations in the United States rank among the most economically devastated
areas in the country in terms of traditional economic development measures such as per
capita income, percentage of families below the poverty line, and percent unemployment.
More important, the quality of life on the reservations is indicative of the desperate
economic state of most Indian peoples. One need only drive through some of the poorer
reservations in the United States to see the economic development imperative. The
complex history of the trust relationship between the U.S. Government and Native
Americans has certainly contributed to this situation through mismanagement of funds and
resources, selling out of Native interests in minerals and other natural resources to
corporations for far below market value, and outright expropriation of Indian resources
without compensation. Even the establishment of the reservations themselves
contributed to the current state by putting indigenous peoples on lands that required a
lifestyle contrary to what they had always known (i.e. forcing an agricultural lifestyle on
peoples that had primarily focused on hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, etc.). There are

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
also numerous misperceptions of the economic state of reservation peoples, fueled in part
by the establishment of several Native enterprises on many of the reservations (casinos,
ski resorts, hunting, manufacturing operations, and others). Given the level of natural
resources of some reservations, Indians should be among the wealthiest communities
according to Western standards, rather than the poorest. While these enterprises have
contributed to some level of improvement in the reservation economies, there is still far to
go. In addition, these enterprises have not been equally successful across reservations,
and many still have little regular income. This is particularly true in the case of Indian
gaming, where a few large and successful casinos drive the myth that Indian people are
now universally affluent.
The solution to these issues is, however, elusive. Many reservations, government
agencies, and academics have attempted economic development programs on the
reservations that have been dismal failures, and have not only failed to return economic
value, but have also eroded environmental health on the reservations and caused cultural
damage to the lifeways of native peoples. As many authors have pointed out, these
failures are often rooted in the failure to create economic development programs that are
sensitive to the cultures of native peoples. While certainly the case, few researchers have
conducted in-depth examinations to explain how the fundamental assumptions of these
programs have led to their demise. For example, the very premise of economic
development programs is rooted in a surplus economy, as opposed to the traditional
subsistence economy of native peoples. In addition, the dominant paradigm of economic
development assumes a capitalist based economy, with accompanying principles such as
private ownership of land and resources, intense competition among firms, and the
accumulation of wealth. All of these have some conflict with the traditional indigenous
worldviews. While these traditional economic development approaches are not without

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
their critics (particularly for their detrimental impact in Africa and Latin America), they
remain the fundamental approach of nearly all of the major aid and economic
development agencies, as well as the standard approach on most reservations. In fact,
most funding from agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (in
the case of international development) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (on the
reservations) is premised on following these principles and aligning economic
development activities to them.
This thesis will examine the assumptions and basic metrics that underlie most
economic development activities and link their failure on the reservations to the
fundamental clash with the worldview of American Indians. It will also examine a new
synthesis model designed to make reservation economic development more successful in
terms of both returning economic value to the reservations and preserving the evolving
lifeways of indigenous peoples. While the paper focuses specifically on the reservations
in the United States, its implications are important for indigenous communities around the
world facing similar challenges. Given the current economic and cultural challenges that
face Indian people today, this model will be critical to long-term survival.
1.2 Capitalist Roots of Economic Development
A review of current practices in economic development is required to better
understand the underlying assumptions in the design of these programs, the results that
they have achieved, and the sources of their failures. Economic development has
occupied much of the attention of governments at all levels for the past several decades.
Development projects both within the United States and in other countries have absorbed
an astounding amount of time, technical knowledge, and financial resources. In spite of
this focus on economic development, many of these programs have not achieved the
sustainable results that they have promised, or that many of their organizers had hoped,

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
and organizations as diverse as the World Bank, the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID), and governments at all levels have bemoaned the
lack of progress on their development projects.1 In some cases, there is evidence that the
economic development programs in developing countries have actually had a negative
impact on the people they were intended to assist in the form of increasing social
inequality and creating further impoverishment where projects have failed.2
Broadly speaking, economic development can be defined as the activities that
governments and other agencies undertake to stimulate the investment of private
resources in a particular area, and these activities are primarily focused on increasing the
economic options and overall economic health of the people in that area3 This can
include a wide variety of programs ranging from tax incentives for businesses to locate or
expand in an area to multi-billion dollar projects to develop infrastructure or enterprises to
provide basic services in an area. While economic development takes place at all levels
of government, practices in international development will be most closely examined in
this paper, as these hold the most significant implications for indigenous communities. In
fact, many of the projects currently undertaken by international development agencies
have a significant impact on indigenous peoples, prompting some agencies to develop
specific protocols for working with these communities.4 On the international level,
economic development primarily involves the creation of basic infrastructure and human
services, the restructuring of economic policy in a country, the reform of government
practices and spending, and the development of businesses and agriculture.5 International
economic development takes place in a highly complex environment, often involving staff
from international agencies, private corporations, non-profit organizations, governments,
and private citizens. This is similar to the reservation environment where there are a
number of actors (diverse stakeholders within the nation, Bureau of Indian Affairs / other

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
federal government personnel, corporations / private interests, state / local government
agencies, etc.) from different cultural backgrounds often working to develop basic
infrastructure services and diverse economic programs. In addition, economic
development in both arenas involves a complex blending of cultures, legal frameworks,
traditional knowledge, structures, lines of authority, perceptions of power, government
forms, and a host of other actors. In international development, the mix of national and
local governments, indigenous peoples and their governments, international institutions
and their sometimes far-reaching authority, NGOs, and other factors create this
environment. On the reservations, there is a complex mix of reservation governments,
federal involvement, private companies, non-profits, and other entities with the same sort
of complex (and often conflicting) legal frameworks, power structure, etc. There are
certainly some differences in reservation development and economic development in
other countries as well.
First, the bounds of sovereignty on the reservations are not as clear as they are in
an actual country. The complex history of U.S. Indian Law creates a truly unique
environment in which development takes place. In addition, microeconomic factors are
more prevalent in reservation development than they are in dealing with countries, where
macroeconomics is a significant focus. In spite of these differences, the similarities make
for a worthwhile comparison. Early efforts in international development primarily involved
large international organizations such as the World Bank and USAID managing large
projects in many countries without much cooperation or involvement on the part of local
governments or citizens. Prompted by the failure of these programs to achieve their
stated goals, the prevailing mentality shifted in the 1970s towards involving local
governments in development projects, with the assumption that these governments would
better understand and advocate for the needs of the people.6 It was assumed that

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
corruption and other political problems would be minimized in these implementations by
involving public administrators in the countries where they were taking place, and that
through these representatives of the people, the voice of the people would be heard.7 This
has not been in the case in most instances, as will be discussed in the next section.
A core foundation of international development is the use of Structural Adjustment
Programs (SAPs). These programs are generally attached to loans from large institutions
such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund, and focus on bringing the target
country more in line with capitalist principles. Typical conditions of SAPs include8:
Removing foreign investment restrictions
Reorientation of the local economy from providing for domestic needs to export
Reducing wages to drive down prices of exports (in the name of becoming
Cutting trade restrictions (tariffs, quotas, etc.)
Devaluing local currency
Privatizing state enterprises
Eroding labor, environmental, and other regulations
All of these are foundations of the capitalist-based free-market system and are intended
to make the target country a player in the global economy by loosening restrictions on
capitalist activity. More importantly, the debt burden of many of these loans was too much
for the developing economies in which they were targeted, and as a condition of further
credit, the United States and international development institutions were able to further
drive capitalist-based changes in target governments. Even recent efforts oriented
towards debt forgiveness for the worlds poorest countries were premised on the condition
that these countries implement market reforms aligned with Structural Adjustment.9 In this
way, the international development organizations were able to further extend the hold of
capitalism on the global economy. Noted author Hernando DeSoto in his comprehensive
book The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere
Else, examines numerous mechanisms of capitalism (property systems, informal

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
economies, legal systems, land ownership, etc.) in developing countries to determine why
the spread of capitalism has failed to achieve its desired results. He looks at case studies
from dozens of countries and concludes that the fundamental issue stems from the lack of
market mechanisms in developing countries that create the sort of favorable capitalist
environment that exists in the United States and other Western countries. One of his more
telling conclusions is that capitalism is the only game in town and that the key to making
economic development successful is ensuring that all of the foundations of capitalism are
adequately in place, and this conclusion is echoed by other authors.10 This is indicative of
the state of international development efforts across the globe they continue to be
grounded in the western ideology of development and focus on integrating more and more
countries and peoples into the global economy. While an in-depth discussion of the
challenges associated with these strategies is outside the scope of this paper, it can be
said that the capitalist roots of economic development programs have led to sub-optimal
results across a broad range of environments and countries, and the failures have been
particularly pronounced in indigenous communities.11
But the capitalist foundations of economic development are not limited to
international development initiatives. Local economic development efforts in the United
States are certainly grounded in the fundamentals of capitalism, and focus for example on
increasing the amount of exports from one community to other communities. The
techniques of Structural Adjustment are not a factor in local economic development, but
many of the other strategies are the same. There is a strong focus on strategies that
maximize exports, exploit natural resources, limit government regulation, and provide
incentives for foreign" investment (primarily attracting corporations to locate in the area).
Similar to international development, there have been questions as to the effectiveness of
local economic development efforts and even how they are and should be measured.12 In

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
fact, Fasenfest, Ciancanelli, and Reese argue that the market paradigm has become so
prevalent in economic development theory and practice, that it influences every aspect of
how development is framed problem definition, questions asked, solutions considered,
and even the research methodologies employed. It also limits the strategies employed to
those that take into account economic outcomes and not community health or social
outcomes. As one author points out, the role of economic development is increasingly to
make the people it is focused on actors in the global capitalist system.13 When these
strategies and their capitalist basis are brought to the reservations, cultural incongruence
often causes sub-optimization or complete failure of economic development programs.
This is discussed in more detail in later sections.
1.3 Failures of international Development Programs
In spite of the massive influx of resources focused on economic development
activity, these programs have had (at best) mixed success. Many of the countries that
have had the most economic development activity focused on them have not significantly
improved their overall economic health.14 While there has been strong investment to
ensure the appropriate knowledge and capital is working within the needed areas and
there already exists extensive natural resources in these countries, their growth and
economic health still lags behind the 'developed' world. Other factors such as education,
work habits, and skills do not fully explain the differences in growth rates, as many of
these Countries are comparable to more developed countries and higher growth rate
countries in these respects.15 Much of the literature points to the role of government action
in the failure of these programs to achieve desired results. Even the World Bank, which
counts on governments for funding and support, has found numerous links between
government action and policy and the failure of its programs.16

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Government policy and action can harm economic development in many ways.
Issues such as minimal enforcement of contracts, lack of anti-trust laws, lack of
intellectual property rights, and regulations that negatively affect key industries can
minimize the gains achieved through natural resources, outside capital, and technical
assistance, as well as make investors hesitant to pour capital into the country (as has
been evidenced in the former Soviet Union, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere). In
addition, governments in many of the Target countries have not reformed basic
administration, and the economic development programs there are hindered by corruption
and inefficient use of resources. Finally, governments have often been complicit in the
exploitation of the land and resources of indigenous communities through lax enforcement
of standards and environmental rules, allowing resources to be exploited, and in some
cases actually using violence against indigenous communities to enforce the will of
multinational corporations.17 Because governments have controlled the resources
allocated to development programs, they have often been used to benefit the political elite
and increase their power or to further illegal enterprise. In Columbia, for example, funds
slated for economic development were used to build roads to allow the drug cartels to
more efficiently traffic their product. These high profile failures in development programs
have increased the skepticism about the effectiveness of the international development
agencies in making sustainable economic change.
Many of the large development agencies have moved to a compliance mentality
to help combat these problems. That is, they have built in more requirements for reporting
and less discretion to ensure compliance with the original project plan. This has caused
many programs to fail because they did not adequately meet the needs of the local
environment and did not have involvement from any of the local people who would have to
sustain them.18 These problems are not surprising, since organizations such as the World

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Bank have a vested interest in maintaining control of these projects and their continued
existence depends on their involvement. These organizations have a strong influence
over the world economy because of the large transfers of funds between countries that
they broker and the amount of money they pump into the economies of the countries they
work in. To change their operating model to emphasize more local control and autonomy
would reduce their role in the world economy and their influence in the affairs of many of
these countries. As a matter of course, consultants from the World Bank, USAID, and
International Monetary Fund (IMF) re-write trade policy, civil service requirements, labor
policy, environmental and energy policy, and otherwise exercise strong control over the
actions of government in countries where they have administered projects in order to
conform them with international norms.19 As discussed above, these Structural
Adjustment Programs (SAPs) are broad-based government and economic reforms that
have a significant impact on the operations of the country, and create tremendous
opportunities for influence and control by the international agencies that implement them.
While these international development organizations often point to problems with local
governments or the local people as the source of failure for their programs, it is often the
policies and practices of the agencies themselves that lead to the program failure.
Problems also arise from the hierarchical structure of these international development
organizations. These organizations have centralized planning and administration
structures that are not aware of and not responsive to local needs. Development projects
often manifest themselves as large govemment-run operations that are highly
bureaucratic. Because of this they are slow to act and inefficient in their operations, and
they do not involve the people they are impacting. This has shown to be a significant
factor in the failure or sub-optimization of international development programs.

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Part of the failure of these structural reforms executed by international
development agencies is the assumption of a similar social context in which they will
operate.20 That is, the agencies assume that countries that have had socialist economies,
or highly corrupt systems of patronage will suddenly adapt to a capitalist economy or a
civil service system. A merit system for civil service will not work universally in all
countries, due to the nature of the people and politics. Even supposed culturally neutral"
technology such as computers and agricultural methods do not always take into account
the rituals and methods that they are replacing. These rituals and methods are often part
of the culture in a country and have significance beyond their mere function. Problems in
implementation arise when the social context that surrounds a technology or reform
conflicts with that of the people who will use it. This issue is particularly poignant when
the project involves work in indigenous communities. For example, introducing heavy
machinery into farming in Africa in indigenous communities may indeed speed up the
harvest and make it more efficient. It may also disrupt the traditional relationship of the
indigenous peoples to the land, who determine the health of the soil and what should be
planted by the color and consistency of the soil during plowing and harvest. There is
certainly a linkage between the assumption of similar social contexts and the failure to
meet local needs in development programs. The programs fail to take into account the
local culture, how the program will be viewed by the local people, and what impacts it will
have on the local culture, because of this assumption of cultural homogeneity, or at least
the assumption of a universal understanding of capitalist fundamentals.
An additional failing of many international development projects is the critical lack
of skills of field personnel and the local people themselves who are implementing and
sustaining these initiatives.21 A simple example is an irrigation system may be built in a
village, but the people of that village do not have the skills to maintain it or repair it when it

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breaks (as has often been the case in villages in Africa). This shortage of skills creates
further dependence on the large organizations and governments running the projects, and
prevents the local people from sustaining the gains of the program. The implementing
organizations are then forced to invest additional resources beyond the project plan to
sustain the development, and the local economy does not realize the full gains from the
program. A cycle of dependence is thus created where programs do not achieve
sustainable results, and the international development agency must then return to these
areas and invest additional resources for further short-term gains. Capacity building (skill
and knowledge transfer to the local people) is not part of the standard project protocols in
most of the international development agencies, thus perpetuating this cycle of
Beyond this lack of economic progress in international development programs,
many of the large-scale development projects have had detrimental effects on indigenous
peoples, displacing them from their lands, causing health damage, and inflicting a host of
other negative impacts. In looking at indigenous communities specifically, several authors
have focused on the impact of culture (and cultural differences) on the execution of
economic development programs. This link will be explored in more in the next section.
1.4 Contrast to Native American Worldview
Since capitalism is the philosophical base for the economic development
approaches articulated above, it stands to reason that in order for these strategies to be
effective, the fundamental roots of capitalism must be in place, including:
Predominantly private ownership of capital and the means of production
Focus on generating surplus for economic return
Individual ownership and accumulation of wealth
Minimal government interference in private enterprise
Unrelenting focus on economic growth

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Certainly the goals of the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) align with putting these
foundations in place. However, this capitalist basis has often conflicted with the societies
and countries in which it is applied, and international development agencies often have to
force this shift to a capitalist economy as a precondition of providing economic
development assistance to a country. Many of these countries have a heavy reliance
upon subsistence lifestyles and informal economies to meet the needs of a large number
of its people, and the shift to a surplus economy often causes significant problems and
increased poverty upon implementation. This force fitting of capitalism into cultures that
are not conducive to it is one of the roots of failure in international development programs.
A brief overview of the impacts of these programs in Africa will help illuminate this point.
1.4.1 Structural Adjustment in Africa
The book Economic Justice in Africa contains many case studies of the
implementation of international economic development programs, their failures, and the
negative impacts often vested on the people that they are intended to help. As discussed
above, the hallmarks of the structural adjustment programs implemented by the World
Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in particular have included:
Shifting the economy from a subsistence orientation to a surplus orientation
focused on export
Devaluing local currency to promote exports and discourage imports
Cutting public spending and borrowing
Reducing or eliminating government influence on private enterprise
Government reforms focused on reducing corruption and liberalizing markets
Overall, these imposed changes have primarily had a negative impact on the countries in
which they have been implemented, particularly on indigenous peoples and on the people
who are already impoverished.22 In nearly every indicator of quality of life that was
examined in these studies (environmental health, education, public health, personal

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security, human rights, hunger, etc.), countries fared worse than they had prior to the
adjustment programs. While a comprehensive discussion of these impacts is outside the
scope of this paper, a few anecdotes are helpful in illustrating this detrimental effect. First,
the shift from subsistence economies has had a significant negative impact on food
security in Africa. Where once people met their needs through subsistence farming, they
are now forced to work in factories and often do not earn sufficient wages to feed their
families. Real wages (adjusted for cost of living increases) have actually declined in
nearly all of the countries where these programs have been implemented, and this has
further increased poverty. Finally, as public spending is curtailed as part of these
programs, funding for education and health care has decreased during a time when it has
increased in developed and non-adjusting countries. The World Bank in particular has
attempted to correct these problems with its adjustment programs, primarily through the
provision of short-term subsidies to the poor on the assumption that market forces will
eventually correct for the inequalities that are created. The short-term subsidies are often
not, however, adequate to counter the neglect of consideration of real quality of life issues
when implementing these programs.
In addition to the problems caused by the imposition of capitalist based values
through these development programs, other aspects of implementation have also caused
problems. Prime among these is the neglect of human factors in the activities and
programs of the international development agencies. From the World Banks view in
particular, dealing with the social capital aspects of development is too hard".23 Their
work instead focuses on manipulating macroeconomic factors, and assuming that quality
of life will be improved through a trickle down effect. There is no focus on ensuring self-
sufficiency and the ability of people to meet their basic needs, but rather a reliance on the
omnipotence of capitalism and the efficiency of markets to ensure that the needs of the

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people are met. There is also little focus on building the skills and capacity of the people
in the adjusting country, assuming that private industry will take care of the requisite
capacity building. Finally, there is no specific accounting for environmental impacts in the
planning and implementation of these programs, again assuming that the market will find
the most efficient way to deal with the environmental problems created during structural
adjustment. Indigenous peoples have suffered disproportionately from these structural
adjustment activities. Even protocols such as those implemented by the World Bank to
help mitigate the particular issues with development in indigenous communities have not
yielded the results that the donor institutions had hoped.24 As referenced above, the past
failures of international development programs has led to an increased focus on
compliance with project plans and reduced involvement of local and indigenous peoples in
the design and implementation of the programs themselves. This approach posits that the
development agencies know best how to improve the economic health of the
communities, and it is the agency that best knows how to implement these programs. The
results of these programs, particularly in indigenous communities, tend to imply otherwise.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the underlying philosophies that guide the
implementation of these programs are most at odds with the worldview of indigenous
What do Structural Adjustment Programs in Africa have to do with economic
development on Indian reservations in the United States? At its core, the experience of
African nations with SAPs is indicative of the attempts by the United States government
and other institutions to conduct economic development activities on the reservations, and
the results have some parallels. In both cases, economic development involves imposing
a capitalist worldview on indigenous peoples that fundamentally changes their traditional
lifeways. In most cases, these programs have failed due to the fundamental

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incompatibilities of this worldview with that of indigenous peoples. This contrast will be
examined in the next section.
1.4.2 Contrast with the worldview of indigenous peoples
One of the primary fallacies related to economic development in indigenous
communities is that all indigenous people are eager to shift from their traditional lifeways
to a more Western and capitalist based way of life. While certainly there is a great deal
of talk about cultural sensitivity, the fundamental methods and approaches to economic
development on the reservations are still rooted in capitalism and its foundations. This
shift includes the move from a subsistence economy to a surplus-oriented economy, and
has been portrayed as somehow moving native peoples from their difficult life composed
of manual labor to a leisurely life based on capitalist principles.25 This myth has led to a
focus by Western economic development organizations on educating native peoples on
the superiority of the surplus lifestyle. This education has applied not only to economic
development, but the superiority of the settler lifestyle overall.26 But the choice to live a
subsistence life has been a deliberate one for hundreds of years within indigenous
communities and many indigenous peoples prefer this way of life. As Jerry Mander points
out in his book, In the Absence of the Sacred, there has traditionally been deliberate
underproduction in indigenous communities, and no desire to exploit natural resources to
their maximum capacity. This view is diametrically at odds with Western philosophies of
gaining maximum production from all available resources, and has led to repeated conflict
between indigenous communities and Western society.27 Counterintuitive to Westerners
however, is the fact that this underproduction was coupled with relative abundance within
indigenous communities, where everyone had their basic needs met, and still enjoyed a
percentage of leisure time much higher than most modem industrial workers. Many of the

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
early indigenous peoples in the United States were known for their economic innovations
and ability to harness the land to enable a high quality of life that reduced manual labor
and allowed time for arts, philosophy, and community building.28 It is in fact the
introduction of capitalist systems into indigenous communities that first introduced poverty
into these communities. Prior to contact with the West, native communities had all they
needed from the land and the natural environment. The shift to surplus-oriented
economies in many indigenous communities has reduced their ability to sustain
themselves by devastating the natural and environmental resources upon which they
The negative impacts of the introduction of capitalist principles into Native
American communities are far-reaching. Two principles in particular have had some of
the most damaging effects- private ownership and material accumulation. Traditionally,
indigenous communities have held property in common and for the good of the community
as a whole. Thiswas the practice in many Native American communities until the General
Allotment (Dawes) Act of 1887 forced the allocation of reservation lands to private parcels
held by individuals. This allocation has not only led to the deterioration of traditional Native
American community values, but has also allowed many non-natives to acquire
reservation lands.29 Once these resources were no longer managed for the good of the
community, inequality and want were consequently introduced. Similar changes were
caused by the concept of material accumulation being introduced into indigenous
communities. Previously, many native communities had rules that specifically prohibited
the accumulation of wealth, accompanied by complex systems for distributing surplus
wealth and resources among the community to increase equality. The focus on
accumulation tore down these community bonds, and once again created inequality and
want within communities who once enjoyed a high standard of living among all members

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of the community.30 It is a similar dynamic to many other indigenous cultures in the face of
Structural Adjustment and economic development farmers who could once grow their
own food and sell the excess to meet basic needs are now forced from a subsistence
lifestyle to an export oriented approach where they must buy all the basic necessities of
life, and consequently must make sufficient money to do so.31 This dynamic first
introduces poverty into a community, as community members are no longer self-sufficient.
The capitalist basis of economic development even makes it difficult to account for some
of the key values of Native American communities. These foundations treat non-monetary
exchanges as non-market considerations, and thus miss a significant portion of the value
exchange among actors in reservation economies. Services are rendered and goods
received often without money or even expectation of returned goods or services. These
do not enter into capitalist equations, in addition, capitalist economic theories do not
adequately account for the actions of the community, but rather treat them as simply
aggregations of individual behavior.32 This community orientation is a crucial part of the
worldview of American Indians and cannot be accurately reflected as merely the
aggregation of individuals. The reinforcing principles of private ownership, wealth
accumulation, and focus on generating a surplus have nearly destroyed many of the
principles that helped indigenous communities survive and thrive for millennia in harmony
with their natural environment and without poverty.
Another significant difference in the philosophy of Western economics and that of
native peoples is the concept of maximum sustainable yield. Maximum sustainable yield
is the approach to resource management employed by the US government on public
lands since the early 1900s, and is used by private resource-based corporations as well.
It focuses on maximizing the economic return from exploitation of natural resources while
theoretically preserving sufficient health within the resource base to ensure sustained

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return over a theoretically infinite period of time. A resource is exploited to the maximum
extent up until which it would cause the future output of that resource to degrade. The
theoretical basis of this is based loosely on the equity of economic return for future
generations, and postulates preserving the economic viability of the resource over time.
There are several problems with this approach, not the least of which is an imperfect
knowledge of where the line that causes that critical deterioration of future productivity
lies. This management approach is in sharp contrast with the Native American approach
to managing natural resources, which is inherently a more conservation-oriented
approach, and focuses on meeting the needs of the community while preserving the rest
of the resource base.33 Bordewich further illustrates this viewpoint in his discussion of the
Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and their approach to forest management. The
tribe brought in outside experts to help them plan a forest management strategy, and
what they got was a maximum yield approach that totally discounted their relationship
with the land and spirituality and subsequent poor results from their development efforts.34
The roots of the Native American approach are complex, and deeply grounded in their
relationship to the land and all facets of the natural environment. It is place-based and
difficult for outsiders to understand, but it has allowed for effective management of natural
resources in Native American communities for centuries.
The Native American philosophy towards the land can be best summarized by a
statement that is displayed prominently in the Yakama Nation cultural center, which reads:
Mother Earth was not ours to own, but was only in our keeping for those yet unborn.35
This suggests a very different approach to resource management than that which is
traditionally practiced by public land managers in the United States and than is mandated
by the fundamental tenants of capitalism. These practices in resource management focus
on the land as a commodity to be managed and exploited for sustainable economic return,

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
with some consideration of preservation and more intangible values such as aesthetics.
In the Native American land ethic, the spiritual and sacred values of the land are placed
above others, and this often causes tensions when the two approaches are brought
together in managing Native American environmental resources. In traditional Native
American spirituality, the land is very much a part of their culture, and they strive to live in
symbiosis with the land. Native Americans see themselves as part of the land. The
resources of the land are alive and as much a part of life as people are, not merely a
resource to be exploited. Nearly all forms of Indian spirituality recognize this inherent tie
between the land and the people in some form or another, and there is a strong
adherence to the principle that no harm should come to Mother Earth. 37 This means that
the land has inherent spiritual value and therefore is protected- when the gifts of the land
are gone, the life of the people is gone as well. Consequently the Native American
approach to land management tends to focus on using only what is required for the health
of the community and conserving the rest. Capitalism has no explicit way to account for
such spiritual values or the interconnected nature of all living things, and reduces
environmental decisions to cost-benefit calculations based often on an inferior knowledge
of the ecosystems in question.
Mander provides additional contrasts in the view of capitalist-based societies and
those of indigenous peoples, summarized in part by the chart below.

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Table 1.1: Contrasting the Views of Western Society and indigenous Peoples38
1 Western Society ... ^(Technological Peoples^ .j^ Indigenous Peoples
Property Concept of private property a basic value; includes resources, land, ability to buy and sell, and inheritance. Some state ownership. Corporate ownership predominates. No private ownership of resources such as land, water, minerals or plant life. No concept of selling land. No inheritance.
Production of Goods Goods produced mostly for sale, not for personal use. Goods produced for use value.
Surplus Production Surplus production, profit motive essential. Sales techniques must create need, hence advertising. Subsistence goals: no profit motive, little surplus production.
Economic Growth Economic growth required, especially in capitalist societies, hence need for increased production, increased use of resources, expansion of production and market territories Steady-state economics: no concept of economic growth.
Competition Competition (in capitalist countries), production for private gain. Reward according to task/wages. Cooperative, collective production
Nature Nature viewed as a resource" Nature viewed as being; humans seen as a part of nature
Power Most power concentrated in centralized authorities. Hierarchal political forms. Decentralized: power resides mainly in community, among people (some exceptions); Mostly non-hierarchal political forms; Chiefs have no coercive power.
Relation to Environment Living beyond natures limits encouraged; natural terrain not considered a limitation; conquest of nature a celebrated value; alteration of nature desirable; anti- harmony; resources exploited Living within natural ecosystem encouraged; harmony with nature the norm; only mild alterations of nature for immediate needs
View of Humans Humans viewed as superior life form; Earth viewed as dead" Entire world viewed as alive: plants, animals, people, rocks. Humans not superior, but equal part of web of life. Reciprocal relationship with non-human life.

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Trosper further examines the contrast between the view of dominant economic
development theorists and government actors and what he calls the Pan-Indian view of
development philosophy. He first reinforces some of the principles above time
perspective considered, individual vs. collective rights, values, and views on hierarchy all
differ in indigenous communities from the capitalist worldview. His comparison goes
deeper to look at how Indian communities look at resources, organizations to run
development, the role of the government, and a number of other factors. In all of these
cases, the worldview of Indian communities contrasts with that of more capitalist-based
theorists. Examples of the contrast appear below.39
Table 1.2: Government vs. Pan-Indian View of Economic Development
Federal Government View Pan-Indian View
Cause of Poverty Resource expropriation, tribal government, Indian culture Resource expropriation, colonialism
Prescriptions for Economic Development Resource exploitation, corporate management, hierarchal management, government plays planning role Sustainable use of resources, focus on tribal or micro organizations, government plays planning role
Leadership Approach Bureaucratic Charismatic
Autonomy Orientation Conformity Diversity
Approach to Agreement Majority rules Consensus
In spite of these many contrasts with capitalist-based conceptions of
development, there is some inherent synergy between the concept of Sustainable
Development and the worldview of Native Americans. Sustainable development is an
approach that has been advocated by many economic development practitioners as a
way to correct the problems with current economic development practice. Sustainable
Development has been defined by the United Nations as development that meets the

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs.40 The concept of providing for the needs of both present and
future generations is certainly a prominent part of the Native American philosophy.
Interpreting this approach in a capitalist context, however, tends to lead to the advocacy of
the maximum sustainable yield approach, and its accompanying problems. Native
Americans tend to emphasize more heavily the provision for future generations, while
economic development agencies tend to focus more on maximizing return now. For
example, USAID notes that sustainable development is premised on economic growth,
investment in people, and good environmental stewardship41 But the way these principles
are applied in the capitalist context differs significantly from the indigenous worldview. As
McGregor notes: Sustainable development is a concept derived from conventional
Western ideology. It is the product of a particular world-view and its interpretation and
implementation reflect Western culture and values. Though it is touted as a framework for
addressing challenges faced the world over, these challenges and their solutions are
defined through Western eyes.42 But as McGregor also notes, the way the term
sustainable development is applied is generally an excuse to just slow down the current
pattern of exploitation under the theory of allowing future generations to exploit resources
to the maximum extent. There is no difference between sustainable development and
development in Native American communities; the real principles that are the roots of
sustainable development are the foundations of Native American ethics, and therefore all
development is undertaken in accordance with those principles. Loomis discusses this
concept in his article on sustainable development, and details that although Western
society has had a difficult time implementing sustainable development principles,
indigenous peoples such as the Maori are living examples of these principles in action.43
The fact that Western society struggles with these concepts that come naturally to

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
indigenous communities is further evidence of the fundamental difference in worldviews
and views on development. Fixico discusses the strong contrast between these
environmental and development values when he notes: The essential problem is one of
capitalistic greed a quality that the American mainstream frequently views as mandatory
for success. Indeed, this ideology is one of the driving forces of American capitalism. Such
a value orientation is incongruent with the fundamental values of Indian tribal life and tribal
leadership.... McGregor puts it quite simply when she notes that the indigenous
interpretation of sustainable development is focused on giving while the Western view is
focused on taking as much as they can.44 In some cases, the use of sustainable
development principles has actually caused backlash, under the argument that
sustainable development is too focused on environmental values, and consequently
hinders economic returns. One might conclude from this difference in philosophy that
Native American approaches to resource management would yield poorer results in terms
of economic development outcomes. In fact, studies in the forest management area show
that when resources are managed according to Native American principles of
environmental management, they not only yield better results in terms of environmental
health, but also return superior economic results.45
It is evident that the fundamental principles on which Western economic
development strategies are based conflict with the worldview of Native Americans. This
has had devastating consequences for the economic development efforts on the
reservations in the United States. While the stated goals of these programs is to reduce
poverty and unemployment while creating sustained growth, most (like Structural
Adjustment Programs) have been a dismal failure. Edward Goldsmith describes
economic development and its accompanying shift to capitalism as its own form of
Colonialism, further reinforcing the already detrimental effects that colonialism has had on

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American Indians.46 A number of studies have also shown the poor results of economic
development on Indian reservations, and most point to culture as a key reason for the
failure of these efforts 47 Duffy and Stubben also point to several other factors that
contribute to failure 48:
1) The dependent-paternalistic relationship with the US government,
which has hindered economic development not only through direct
action and inaction on the part of the government (e.g. negotiating
below market mineral leases), but also in creating a lack of clarity
around governing authority on the reservation.
2) Inconsistent investment by the US government in developing the
needed infrastructure and capacity on the reservations for successful
economic development. The government has alternately seen Native
Americans as a burden to be shed and as a responsibility to be funded.
3) Cultural barriers foster hesitancy among private investors. The
operations of the reservations and Native American governments are
alien to many off-reservation investors, which increases the perception
of risk among these investors. They do not understand decision-
making, legal enforcement, and many other facets of how business on
the reservation works. The US government has further complicated
this issue by blurring legal precedent around jurisdiction on the
reservation, as well as who has the authority to enter into deals.
4) Fear on the part of Native Americans of assimilation or the erosion of
traditional values if they participate in large-scale economic
development activities. As noted above, capitalist-based economic
development is in many ways antithetical to the Native American
worldview, and this causes legitimate concern for reservation
governments, particularly as the scale of projects increases.
Several authors place heavy emphasis on points 1 and 3. Many advocate that
reservations adopt the view common across US government entities that the role of
government is to provide a fertile ground for economic development by ensuring free
exercise of market principles.49 However, this is squarely in conflict with issue number 4
above, although many authors fail to acknowledge this conflict. Just as important, Indians
themselves struggle with the capitalist-based practice of economic development. Because
their worldview traditionally is not a capitalist one, there are often problems when dealing
with off-reservation entities that operate from a purely capitalist perspective. Fixico in his
case study of the history and economic development activities of Klamath peoples in

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Oregon Illustrates this dynamic. He talks about the history of the nation and their
economic relationships with whites from the start of early trade through to the present.
Fixico notes that the Klamath had a history of at first enjoying economic gain from trade,
but later being taken advantage of by unscrupulous trading partners. During the
Termination era, the Klamath were forced completely into the market economy, with
disastrous results. As Fixico notes: Technically, they were ready to enter the free
enterprise system, but realistically, they lacked the sociocultural experience to think
capitalistically and execute competitively. In spite of a rich timber base to use as a
foundation for their market efforts, the nation did not initially fare well in their economic
development efforts because of the cultural incompatibility of their capitalist-based
Alfred also discusses the fundamental conflicts between traditional indigenous
culture and capitalism. Concepts in capitalism such as ownership of the land,
unrestrained growth, development for its own sake, possessive materialism, and the view
of natural resources as commodities are all diametrically opposed to the view of
indigenous peoples that is rooted in their traditional spirituality. In Alfreds view, this
makes capitalism as it is practiced unsuitable as a basis for the economy within
indigenous communities, and certainly unsuited for a basis of development. However, he
specifically rejects the commonly held view that indigenous peoples are somehow
opposed to development or modernization. As he points out, the goals of development
activities in indigenous communities do contrast with capitalist societies, and are focused
on the health and stability of the people and the land, rather than the promotion of
individual wealth. These collective-focused values are again fundamentally divergent with
the philosophies of capitalism, and the goal of indigenous peoples should be to focus on
traditional values, rather than somehow trying to reconcile them with capitalism.51 For

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economic development to be successful on the reservations, an approach must be
created that is fundamentally more compatible with the worldview of Native Americans.
This approach is discussed in Chapter 3. Fundamentally, economic development on the
reservations and the associated results defy traditional economic development theories,
and these theories fail to explain why economic development has not been successful in
the reservation environment.52 The unique cultural, political, and economic environment
and history defies the machinations of development theory. To further understand why
traditional approaches are not working on the reservations, we next turn to one of the
most fundamental aspects of economic development measures.
1.5 Measures Drive Strategies
While Desoto argues that culture is not a critical barrier to successful economic
development, we must examine how economic development activities are guided and how
economic development approaches are created.53 Measures are the fundamental building
blocks of economic development strategy, and drive the programs used and the outcomes
to be achieved by various economic development methods. Like the old business adage
what gets measured gets done, the metrics used to measure economic development
efforts are the essential determinant of both what gets done and how it gets done. This is
particularly true as the focus on accountability in public programs and the concomitant
drive towards more effective program evaluation have become key components of public
administration. It is also demonstrated in the compliance-oriented approach to economic
development that is being advocated by donor institutions (as discussed above).
Traditional economic development focuses on measures based heavily in
capitalist theory. Economic indicators are generally the key focus points for economic
development, and these measures rarely reflect the health of the community or the
individuals within it. Typical economic development measures include:

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Per Capita Income
Percent of Population Below the Poverty Line
Percent Unemployment (and new job creation)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
Even in studying economic development on the reservations, nearly every major study
focuses on these metrics or some derivative of them.54
These measures, however, are problematic in the reservation environment.
Beyond their capitalist roots and problems with cultural incompatibility, they do not paint a
representative picture of the economic system on the reservations. Several authors have
pointed to the strong presence of the informal economy on the reservations in the form of
bartering and other transactions where money is not exchanged. In addition, Desoto and
others note the significant amount of unpriced work that goes on in the economy such as
childcare, household maintenance, gardening for food purposes and other activities.55 All
of these activities are not counted in calculations such as per capita income and GDP.
And as discussed above, these are rarely measures that indigenous communities are
focused on. Their culture is generally one more oriented towards community health and
conservation, and consequently indigenous peoples do not seek to maximize things like
discretionary income, yield on resources, and surplus production. The focus in most
indigenous communities is how well the needs of the people are being met. Traditional
economic development measures do not take this into account. But outside actors, and
sometimes tribal governments themselves, force these measures on economic
development programs on the reservation.
Even health-related measures such as life expectancy, infant mortality, etc. do not
always paint an accurate picture of the state of development or the historical context of
the wellness of a community. In a study in a Sarawak community (the Lahanan) in

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Malaysia, Alexander and Alexander traced the historical evolution of development since
contact with non-indigenous peoples through both statistical and ethnographic analysis.
Their in-depth study looked at the Malaysian governments view that life had improved in
these communities based on improvement in several public health indicators. The study
indeed points to improvement in several metrics including infant and child mortality,
reduction in water-borne diseases, reduction of dental problems, and lower incidences of
diseases such as small pox, tuberculosis, and yaws (although many of these diseases
were actually introduced by contact with outsiders).56 It also looked at changes in the area
that have been implemented since contact such as government programs to shift the
community from subsistence farming to more surplus orientation, new health facilities, and
periodic access to traveling medical staff. However, the study also illustrates that some of
these statistics can be misleading. First, it contradicts the assumption that the community
would have necessarily been worse off without the intervention of outsiders. It notes that
the Lahanan already participated'in regional trade with other indigenous communities prior
to contact, and so they were familiar with the basic concepts of the market economy. Yet
the community took a stance of providing for its own needs first, rather than focusing on
trade. With the advent of development programs, now resources such as meat are often
targeted first for trade, rather than meeting the needs of the community.57 In addition, the
community is constantly battling with the timber companies who now own the wood that
the Lahanan used to freely collect for their long houses and fire needs. Like many
indigenous communities, the move from a subsistence lifestyle to one based on trade and
surplus has had detrimental effects. Projects aimed at improving economic development
such as logging have actually led to contamination of the water supply and other
problems. Programs targeted at generating cash crops have degraded the land available
for subsistence farming, thus increasing the overall need for cash in the communities.

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
While there is a low instance of hunger within the communities, the nutritional balance and
overall health of the adults based on nutrition has declined. Certainly dental problems and
incidences of several diseases have been reduced since the start of the development
programs, but this discounts the fact that these diseases did not exist prior to contact and
that dental problems were caused by the introduction of sugar-based foods into the
Lahanan diet by outsiders. Many traditional aspects of the communitys culture have also
been disrupted by the development programs including a shift from the community living
in their traditional long houses, out-migration of community members to seek cash-based
work, and disruption to traditional family planning and subsistence lifestyles. The study
does also note that the Lahanan have been quite adept at integrating aspects of the
outsider culture that are compatible with their particular lifeways such as more education
and better sanitation. Overall however, these changes benefits in the area of public
health must be balanced with the accompanying erosion of several aspects of community
cohesion, traditional practices that'kept the community in balance with the environment,
and the negative effects introduced by the development programs.58
The Sarawak experience is representative of what many indigenous communities
have faced in the wake of development programs targeted at moving economic metrics
without considering community health, cohesion, and the potential impact of erosion of
traditional lifeways. Using economic-based measures to guide economic development
programs inevitably leads to a focus on monetary outcomes and minimizes the
importance of community-oriented values to indigenous peoples. It sacrifices many of the
fundamental foundations of indigenous lifeways for a focus on capitalist-based views of
success and progress. The traditional metrics of economic development are at the very
least insufficient for guiding development efforts in indigenous communities, if not outright

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
incompatible. Chapter 3 examines alternative frameworks for measuring economic
development on the reservations.
The fundamental question that arises from this discussion must be: if the standard
approaches to economic development and program measurement are not appropriate for
reservation communities, why are they still used? The answer to this question is complex,
but is rooted in the historical relationship between the US government and the
reservations. As discussed above, the early settlers in the United States brought
capitalism to the reservations, and over time as the government has sought ways to
increase the self-sufficiency of reservations and reduce federal subsidies, it has brought
the capitalist-based techniques of economic development to these communities. Like
international development agencies, there was insufficient consideration of the cultural
history and orientation of the reservations before this work was undertaken. In addition,
the Bureau of Indian Affairs has long controlled critical economic development resources
on the reservations such as leasingand contracting authority. This has, of course, led to
economic development approaches grounded in the capitalist framework, rather than
taking into account the unique values and lifeways of Native Americans. 59 Chapter 2
examines the current practice of economic development on the reservations in more

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2. Reservation Economic Development Current Practice
While there are many conflicts in Western conceptions of economic development
with the worldview of Native Americans, economic development is nevertheless an
imperative on the reservations today. Establishment of the reservations forced the shift
from the traditional subsistence lifestyle to one based on capitalism. But the resources
required to actually succeed in this market-based economy did not accompany this shift.
Consequently, the shift led to economic devastation. The reservations are among the
poorest places in the United States in terms of economic indicators such as per capita
income, percentage of families below the poverty line, and percent unemployment.
Beyond these purely economic indicators, several health statistics are illustrative of the
desperate conditions in Native American communities. Among the more appalling
statistics: 60
Unemployment rates at 45% or more, with a US National Average of 8% (ranging
as high as 87% on some reservations).
Average per capita income is 58% that of non-Natives and more than 23% live
below the poverty line (3x times the rate of whites). The statistics on reservations
can be worse, where more than 40% live below the poverty line.
In 1990, 22% of Indian households had incomes of less than $5,000 per year,
compared with 6% of the overall US population. Similarly, only 8% of the
reservation households had incomes greater than $35,000, compared with 18%
for the US overall.
While improving, overall life expectancy is much lower and infant mortality much
higher for Native Americans than for whites. Rates for suicide, alcoholism, drug
addiction, diabetes, and heart disease are all significantly higher among Native
populations, particularly on the reservations.
Less than 8% of Native Americans have completed college compared to more
than 16% of the American population overall. On the reservations, less than 4%
have college degrees.

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
These conditions certainly illustrate the dire need for robust economic development
programs on the reservations. These programs are not only critical to standards of living,
but in many cases to the very survival of the people on the reservations. Some
reservations are rich in natural resources and exploitation of these resources is the
primary source of economic activity. Minerals (including oil and gas) still provide 75-80%
of the total income generated on Native trust lands, though the overall returns and
percentage of income from mineral extraction has been in decline since the early 1980s.
More than 5% of the proven oil and gas reserves in the US are on reservations, as are
more than 30% of the strippable coal reserves and more than 50% of the total uranium
deposits.61 Agriculture and grazing are also critical to the reservation economy, with more
than 5% (44 million acres) of the rangeland in the US on reservations. Timber harvesting,
however, provides the second largest source of income for the reservations behind
mineral extraction. More than a quarter of all reservation lands are forested, and more
than 40% of this is considered commercially viable, comprising nearly 2% (40 billion board
feet) of all commercial timber in the United States. In addition to the income derived from
timber harvesting, many reservations also derive income from other forest-based activities
such as hunting, fishing, tourism, and other outdoor recreation activities. Several
reservations (White River, Yakima, etc.) have economies based nearly solely on some
use of the forest. It should also be noted that there is wide disparity in the amount of a
given resource base on the reservations, with some possessing a wealth of a given
resource, and other suffering from virtually no sustainable economic base. The presence
of exploitable resources, however, is not a guarantee of economic success, as many
reservations have experienced sub-optimized results from the exploitation of their
resources.62 In addition, approximately only 15% of the Native American population has
significant natural resources on tribal lands, so resource extraction is not a panacea for

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Indian Country.63 Many other reservations are devoid of any significant resource base for
economic development through physical industries, and are too remote for many service-
oriented ventures. While improvement of the economic and human health conditions on
the reservations is obviously a priority for Native American communities, the reliance on
natural resources as the primary source of economic activity also creates some inherent
conflicts in the Native American community. As discussed in the previous chapter, the
native land ethic is one primarily focused on conservation, and on living in harmony with
the Earth. Nature is not seen as a resource to be exploited, but there is still a pressing
need to use natural resources to improve the quality of life for reservation peoples. This
tension has been problematic for past economic development programs on the
reservations, and is one of the many barriers to developing sustainable economies that
meet the needs of the people. For some tribes, gaming has become a significant source
of income on the reservation, and it has nothing short of reversed the economic situation
of reservations where it has been successful. As with resource extraction, however, the
gains have been uneven and gaming is not an appropriate strategy for all tribes. The
impact of gaming is discussed in more detail later in this chapter.
Contrary to common popular beliefs, the reservation economies in general are not
flourishing from minerals and gaming.64 Some nations have improved their economic
situation through a variety of economic development activities, but many others are still
struggling to create a sustainable economic base. This chapter explores current economic
development activity on the reservations in more detail, as a foundation for identifying
strategies that can help those who are still struggling while also helping those who have
been successful create a foundation more grounded in their culture. This is, of course, not
intended to be a comprehensive cataloging of current economic development activity, but
is rather illustrative of typical strategies, results, and challenges across Indian Country.

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
2.1 Past Development Efforts on the Reservations
Extensive studies have been undertaken to examine economic development on
the reservations.65 These studies have focused on a wide range of factors, from the
particular economic development strategies employed, to the influence of governance and
relationships with the federal government, to the educational and natural resources
possessed by the reservation and their link to economic development success. While
there is a wide disparity in the opinions of authors on what leads to success on the
reservation and how that success can be sustained, there is a strong consensus that
generally the economic development programs have done little to create sustainable
improvements in the economic health of the reservations. Certainly there are notable
exceptions such as the phenomenal success of the Foxwoods Casino for the
Mashantucket Pequots of the vibrant and diverse economic ventures of the Mississippi
Choctaw, but for each of these success stories there are dozens of tribes who are still
struggling to carve out some sustainable economic development activities (see survey
discussion below). In addition, once success is attained in economic development
ventures, there is still a struggle to maintain and expand upon that success. Stories such
as the up-and-down fortunes of the Menominees illustrate how changing political and
economic conditions can impact the success of economic development efforts.66
There are several archetypical strategies that are employed on the reservation to
improve their overall economic health. A brief review of these is useful:67
Resource Extraction: As noted above, resource extraction (mining, oil and
gas, etc.) still provides the largest percentage of revenue to most Native
American reservations. The Bureau of Indian Affairs often oversees this
activity and the revenues are managed through a trust.
Forest Products: Many of the nations have significant forest resources, and
the harvesting and processing of these resources brings significant revenue
to these reservations.

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Gambling: Several nations now own or operate casinos on reservation land.
Manufacturing: There is a wide range of manufacturing activity taking place
on the reservations, from aircraft parts to clothing to electronics, and a wide
array of other goods.
Grazing & Agriculture: These activities are both a source of economic
income as well as subsistence on the reservations. Includes resurgence of
Buffalo herding among some plains tribes. Grazing land is the single biggest
available resource on reservations.
Traditional Arts & Crafts: Activity in this area ranges from small-scale crafts
and art being sold out of peoples homes to larger scale manufacturing for
Tourism: The largest source of income on many reservations, activity
ranges from tours of Pueblos and cultural centers to signature hunting and
fishing trips that can cost $10,000 or more per event. Many nations have
opened resorts, ski areas, or golf courses as well to further drive tourism.
Retail: Many nations who are closer to highways or population centers run a
variety of retail businesses from truck stops to smoke shops.
Each of the nations has employed any number of these strategies, with varying levels of
success. While these illustrate general categories of economic development, it is
important to note that these activities are constantly evolving on the reservations. A
survey conducted as a component of this research shows tremendous diversity in the
economic development activities on the reservations and many nations are branching out
into activities such as energy production (solar, wind, gas, biomass), waste management,
and serving as a disaster recovery site for corporations (see discussion of survey results).
While many of these ventures are in the early stages, some nations have evolved their
economic development efforts to the point where they are actually now contracting
services back for the federal government, instead of relying on federal subsidies.
Contrary to popular belief, capitalism and economic development are not new on
the reservations. Studies show that Native Americans were participants in the market
economy as far back as the history of contact goes. These early efforts revolved heavily
around trading with settlers (furs, skins, food, etc.) and evolved as the early market
economy in the United States evolved. Hosmer traces the evolution of the market

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economy among the Menominees and Metlakatlans in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries and shows how both of these nations absorbed and adapted the market
economy into their own culture, and had no small measure of commercial success. In fact,
by 1912, only 100 of the 1700 Menominees still drew federal rations a level of economic
independence not common on reservations at that time.68 Francisconi similarly traces the
evolution of the market economy among the Navajo (Dine) Nation. He notes that as early
as 1868, capitalism became a dominant factor on the reservation, and by 1881, wage
labor was a prominent means of sustaining families. 69 This had the impact of taking what
had once been a self-sustaining economy, and introducing patronage, poverty, and a host
of other ills. But the author also discusses how the Dine (like the Menominees and
Metlakatlans) integrated their own forms of traditional relationships into the market
economy. For example, kinship obligations had always been a part of the traditional Dine
economy, and this remains so today. This kinship obligation serves as a horizontal
redistribution of wealth, and helps lessen the overall effects of poverty through sharing.
These redistribution elements were also seen among the Menominees, informally at first,
but then in the shape of formal programs designed to help those who needed it.70 The
informal economy has also been a significant factor in reservation life. Native American
communities had always traded among themselves and with Europeans. In the early
history of contact, this was a means to expand the economy and obtain goods that could
enhance the traditional lifestyles of Native Americans. As capitalism took hold, the
informal economy became an essential tool for lessening the effects of poverty and
underdevelopment. Consequently, the relative lifestyle of many Native Americans is better
than their annual income might imply. 71 As discussed at the start of this chapter, however,

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that does not mean that the informal economy has created affluence. In most cases, the
informal economy has served to allow the survival of communities, but has not mitigated
the consequences of capitalism to any significant degree.
Many Native American nations have found ways to integrate capitalism into their
lifestyle. In fact, there are a number of nations that have been quite successful at it.
Arguably one of the most successful nations is the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
This nation has been written about extensively, their case has been included in this study
through an interview with the Community Development Coordinator of the Choctaws for
this research.72 The Choctaws were, until very recently, the second largest employer in
the state, and have a diverse and vibrant set of economic ventures. Unlike many of the
more recent success stories in Indian economic development, the Choctaws did not start
out with gaming. Their early ventures included a wire harness manufacturing / assembly
plant, greeting card production, and a nursing home. These ventures have expanded into
extensive tourism, industrial parks, high tech manufacturing (including government
contracting), construction, medical equipment manufacturing, pharmaceutical distribution,
Geo-Imaging, and a host of other enterprises (including gaming). For the Choctaw,
economic development has always been a means to help them better retain their culture,
and their activities are heavily grounded in their traditional culture.73 From the beginning,
the activities of the nation were focused on addressing the root causes and systemic
problems on the reservation, rather than by simply throwing money at symptoms.
Proceeds from economic development are heavily reinvested into social services,
education, cultural preservation, and other activities that will ensure a sustainable, vibrant
community and the long-term health and welfare of the people. A significant portion of the
proceeds from their ventures are reinvested in diverse economic development activities to

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ensure that they do not have too much dependence on one venture (for example, gaming)
and that they can continue to provide for the needs of the nation as the market economy
There are certainly other examples of economic success. The Passamaquoddies
of Maine own a cement factory, home-building products factory, commercial blueberry
farm, two radio stations, a supermarket, a mall, and a forest products operation. For every
federal dollar that they get, the Passamaquoddies put in two dollars of their own money
from their economic development activities to fund tribal initiatives and improve the
community. From the start, their goal was to create a self-sustaining local economy so
that members could have meaningful jobs. In addition, the Passamaquoddies saw
economic success as a means to gain influence outside of the reservation, and to be in a
stronger position to preserve their culture and protect the interests of their people.74
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma own an electronics plant that brings in tens of
millions of dollars per year, as well as a greenhouse business and other ventures. This
nation has been able to shift from 90% dependence on federal money to 60% of their
income coming from their business ventures.75 These are but two examples of a number
of indigenous nations that have built successful economic ventures within their reservation
But for every Choctaw Band or Cherokee Nation, there is a story of problems with
economic development on the reservations, and a failure to achieve sustainable economic
results. In many cases, economic development activities have not only failed to bring
economic return but they have devastated the environment, led to strained social
relationships, and destroyed cultures on reservations. Gedicks chronicles extensively
some of the devastation caused by resource extraction projects in indigenous
communities. This is a tale that has been repeated across development efforts on the

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reservations in the United States. Booth discusses the problems with the Tohono
Ooodham cattle programs caused by government intervention and focus on capitalist
principles. McQuillan discusses the failures of the Quinault forestry programs in the 1960s
and 1970s from inappropriate use of European forestry management practices. 76
So, what is the true picture of economic development on the reservations? Are
most nations thriving with vibrant, culturally-grounded economic development ventures
like the Choctaws? Or, are most nations like the Pine Ridge Reservation which is
consistently rated the poorest county in the United States? The truth is that there is a
significant gap among reservations and their current state of economic development. A
survey conducted as part of this research sheds some light on the explanations for these
2.2 Survey of Economic Development Activity
As part of this research, a broad-based survey was conducted to assess current
economic development approaches and results on the reservations in the United States.
Surveys were sent out to all of the federally recognized nations for whom contact
information could be found. Most of the information came from federal department web
sites, supplemented with web searches when a nation was listed but no contact
information was available on the federal site. It should be noted that the survey was
limited to the reservations within the continental United States. Indigenous peoples in
Alaska and Hawaii were not sent the survey, due to the significant difference in the
evolution of the economic situation of the peoples in those states. A total of 335 surveys
were sent out via US Mail in late February 2005 with a response deadline of April 1, 2005.
Because of the overall low response rate and the fact that some respondents requested
extensions on the deadline, responses were taken through April 15, 2005. Respondents

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had the choice of completing the survey on the paper form that had been sent, or
accessing the survey through a special web site that was set up for that purpose. Care
was taken to ensure that the responses were anonymous, and no personally identifiable
information was collected in either the paper-based or Web-based survey. Questions
regarding completion of the survey and requests for results were handled outside of the
survey itself.
A common theme in research in Native American communities is the difficulty in
securing participation from indigenous peoples. The reasons for this are numerous and
include concerns such as exploitation of the information gained and lack of cultural
understanding on the part of the researcher.77 Consequently, a low overall response rate
was expected for the survey. However, it was felt that the survey was an important vehicle
for this research because of a lack of certain key data points in published economic
development studies. One of the main focus points of the survey was to determine how
different nations guide and monitor their economic development efforts. In particular, how
often was economic development driven from and measured by community-oriented
objectives vs. economic objectives? In addition, the survey sought to identify the
economic development infrastructure on reservations and who was involved in economic
development decision-making. These particular focus points are not well covered in other
As expected, the overall response rate for the survey was low. Approximately
12% of the survey packets sent out were returned as undeliverable. Of the remaining 295
surveys that were assumed to reach the population, 10.5% were completed (31 surveys
total). During the course of collecting the survey results, this author was also told of
another, similar survey that had recently been conducted by a university. This may have
also impacted the response rate, although this author was unable to identify who had

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conducted that survey or see the results of that research. Of the completed surveys, 61%
were completed via the paper-based survey and 39% were completed on-line. In
analyzing the results, a wide diversity of responses was seen in terms of size of nation,
diversity of economic development efforts, approaches, success rates, etc. There did not
seem to be a particular bias towards large or small nations, or nations at a particular stage
in their economic development efforts. As discussed above, anyone who received the
survey was given the opportunity to request the results of the research be sent to them
once completed. In order to maintain anonymity, a mechanism could not be put in place to
screen out those who did not fill out the survey, but still wanted to receive the results.
Because part of the hope of this research is that it helps Indian nations improve economic
development, this inability to screen out non-respondents was not a concern. Once
requests for the research were received, a confirmation was sent to the requester via e-
mail, along with an invitation to participate in a follow-up interview. The researcher
believed that the follow up interviews would be important given the overall low response
rate and complexity of the subject. Interviews were subsequently scheduled with 3
nations: the Quinault Indian Nation, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, and the Mississippi
Band of Choctaw Indians.78 The author would like to thank each of these nations for the
generous sharing of their time and information to enhance this study. The focus of these
interviews was to gain a deeper understanding of specific case studies of economic
development approaches and governance. A standard set of questions was used for
these interviews focused on gaining a detailed understanding of how economic
development strategies were developed and monitored, as well as to gain additional
insight into the role of culture in the economic development efforts of each of these

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Several demographic characteristics show the diversity of respondents and give
some insight into the variation across nations. In terms of experience, 48.4% of the
respondents had more than 5 years experience in tribal economic development, while
35.5% had less than 3 years experience. From the narrative responses in the surveys and
the interviews, it was clear that several of the respondents who were relatively new to
tribal economic development had significant experience in economic development prior to
joining the particular nation they were working for. When looking at the number of staff
involved in the economic development efforts of the nation, the average was 7.4 full-time
and 1.3 part-time. All of the respondents reported having at least 1 full-time person
dedicated to economic development. There was wide variation in the responses, however,
with 35.5% of the respondents citing 2 or less staff focused on economic development
and 9.7% having 10 or more staff. Similar diversity was seen in the total annual budget for
economic development efforts, with an average of $1.78M, but this number being skewed
by a number of nations with very large budgets. Nearly half of the nations reported much
smaller budgets with 48.4% having budgets under $300,000 per year and 22.6% reported
budgets over $10M per year, with the highest being $18M for non-casino operations and
$45M for casino operations (same nation). All of this confirms that economic development
is an imperative for Indian nations, and all of them are putting significant resources behind
it. It also confirms that several nations have been able to make significant gains in funding
their development efforts, with a number of them managing budgets above $10M
In terms of the actual process and governance of economic development efforts,
there were several key trends. First, most nations managed their efforts with some
combination of full-time staff, tribal council, and tribal-owned corporation. None of them

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listed the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a factor in management of their efforts. When asked
how the nation determined which economic development efforts to pursue, a wide range
of responses was received and these are summarized in the table below:
Table 2.1: How Economic Development Initiatives are Chosen
Stakeholder Group Percent Cited *
Tribal Council 83.9%
Economic Development Staff :r Community Input 67.7%
Outside Consultants =* 41.9%
Other Tribal Input 16.1%
Other Third Party Input 9.7%
BIA Input / Direction 0.0%
* Respondents could choose more than one factor for how development initiatives were chosen.
Overall, the input of the tribal council and the economic development staff were seen as
the most significant forces in choosing economic development initiatives to pursue. These
were followed by community input and the input of outside consultants. The majority of the
nations (60%) cited the existence of a formal process for determining what economic
development initiatives to pursue, but only 27% cited the existence of agreed upon
metrics for measuring the success of economic development programs. When asked
whether economic development on their reservation was driven primarily by economic or
community goals, the answers showed wide variation (summarized below):

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
Table 2.2: Drivers for Economic Development Programs
Goal Area Percent Cited
Economic Goals % 36%
Community Goals 18%
Both Economic & Community Goals 32%
While 50% cited some form of community driver in their programs, there was not a clear
trend towards economic or community goals, and there were still significant number of
nations who drove their economic development efforts by economic goals alone. These
statistics are, however, consistent with the authors experience and published studies that
show that often there is a focus solely on economic goals or some sort of attempt to
balance economic and community goals, often with mixed results.79
These statistics on the process and governance surrounding economic
development efforts on the reservations are, in the authors view, particularly salient. Most
important to the focus of this research, there is a strong trend towards community
involvement in economic development efforts, illustrated both by the prominence of
community input in decision-making and the number of nations citing community goals or
some mix of economic and community goals as the driver of their efforts. This is certainly
encouraging, as it shows focus outside of the traditional capitalist goals and processes.
The interviews also showed that even when there wasnt direct community involvement or
input, there was a strong expectation that the tribal council would represent the views of
the community and in some cases direct interaction with the community on the part of
development staff.80 The lack of specific metrics to measure the success of economic
development efforts was, on the other hand, particularly troubling. As discussed in

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Chapter 1, metrics often drive the design of programs and certainly drives how they are
evaluated. While there is anecdotal evidence that Indian nations see non-economic
metrics as important, if there are not formal means to measure impacts beyond economic
ones, there is a concern that community concerns will not get the appropriate focus or
somehow become secondary to economic goals 81 This would further tie economic
development on the reservations into the capitalist framework and risk further damaging
the culture and lifeways of Native Americans.
Also notable from the survey were perspectives on results achieved to date and
needs for making economic development more successful. When asked which programs
were successful on the reservation and why, the answers were troubling. Several of the
respondents (28.6%) cited no programs as being successful or listed their programs as
too new to tell if they were working. Of the remaining respondents, less than 15% had
more than 1 program that was considered successful. Similarly, the reasons listed for why
they considered the initiative(s) successful were also diverse. Some cited the fact that
they had operated continuously as the only factor, while most others pointed to economic
return as the measure of success. Only one respondent mentioned any sort of community
or culture-oriented goals as the reason why they considered the program successful, thus
reinforcing the dynamic discussed above (economic measures being the primary focus).
This shows that while there is a strong focus and devotion of resources to economic
development, many nations have not yet built a diversified economic base that can
provide sustainable return over time. When asked what the biggest challenge to making
their economic development efforts successful, most respondents (46.4%) noted a lack of
funding. Other key factors were politics / decision making (35.7%) and skills / capabilities
of those involved in economic development (14.3%). This finding echoes the conclusions
of previous authors who note that the lack of capital and governance structures are 2 of

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the most important factors hindering economic development on the reservations.
Finally, when asked what had the most potential to improve the success of their efforts,
the results aligned with the problems discussed. The table below summarizes these
Table 2.3 Factors That Have the Most Potential to Improve Development Success
Factor Percent Cited*
Seed funding for new enterprises 50.0%
Business startup & expansion consulting expertise 35.7%
Business training for entrepreneurs within the nation 35.7%
Other (see below) yr-~ .T& ~ Z.ll ' 35.7%
Economic development strategy advice 32.1%
: Expansion capital for existing enterprises 25.0%
Enhanced social infrastructure (health care, education, etc.) 25.0%
. ** -fir Electronic Commerce Infrastructure 17.9%
Warehousing / Transportation Infrastructure ^ 17.9%
Capital funding for construction of cultural facilities $ 17.9%
Increased access to natural resources 10.7%
* Respondents were able to choose more than one factor
The top 3 factors all relate to capital or capabilities, as anticipated from the previous
question results. In the Other category, all but one of the narrative responses had to do
with capital or capability as well (e g. marketing expertise, money for staff, money for
water and sewer, outside investment capital, etc.). So in reality, 6 of the top 7 factors can
be considered to be related to capital or capability. It was interesting to note the relatively
low frequency of Increased access to natural resources, given the heavy focus on

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natural resources on the reservations. This could be a further indicator of the declining
prominence of this strategy on the reservations, or at least a recognition that what can be
done in this area has been done.
Overall, the survey provides interesting insight into the current state of economic
development on the reservations. While the number of responses is too small to
generalize the results, the indications are important in that they illustrate the diversity of
conditions on the reservations and stages of development therein. Looking across the
literature, a relatively small number of reservations has been studied in detail in published
case studies, and the survey shows that these studies cannot be considered illustrative of
the various activities and needs across Indian Country.83 A more comprehensive data set
would be required to truly identify statistical trends, but the indications from this study
reinforce the fundamental premises of this study and others like it. In summary, it
reinforces that:
Economic development is an imperative on the reservations, and significant
resources are dedicated to it
Most economic development efforts are focused on economic goals, though
community input is seen as an important factor
Most reservations are either early in their economic development successes or
have not yet diversified their economic base
Capital and capabilities are two of the most significant needs for improving
economic development on the reservations
Once again, this validates the need for a new model of economic development on the
reservations that can address the diverse needs and stages of development.
2.3 GIS-Based Analysis of Reservation Economic Activity
Another point of reference for economic development trends on the reservations
was a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based analysis conducted by the author in
2002. The reasons for undertaking this type of analysis are numerous. First, reservation

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
communities are inextricably tied to the land, and understanding the activity on these
lands from a spatial perspective is critical to understanding the economic dynamics on the
reservation. The tribes themselves have recognized this, and many have been acquiring
GIS software and skills to conduct their own analysis. Second, the diversity of the
reservations in terms of geography, resource base, population density, proximity to major
metropolitan areas, and a host of other factors introduce a great deal of complexity into
this type of analysis, and GIS is well-suited to deal with this complexity. Third, there is
ample data available from government and non-government sources that through GIS can
be correlated and analyzed in an efficient manner. The purpose of the analysis was to
analyze key economic indicators and correlate them with reservation demographics. As
with the rest of this study, the analysis was limited to the reservations in the lower 48
states. The following economic indicators were analyzed and correlated:
Percent Gainfully Employed on the Reservation vs. Percent Below the Poverty
Per Capita Income Derived from Mineral Leases vs. Overall Area of the
Per Capita Income Derived from Mineral Leases vs. Percent Below the Poverty
These particular indicators were chosen because they represent typical analyses of
reservation economic health (percent below the poverty line, income), as well as primary
sources of income on the reservations (mineral leases, employment). Data was obtained
from multiple sources and analyzed using the ArcGIS package.84
The first comparison was between the Percent Gainfully Employed and the
Percent Below the Poverty Line. Intuition would say that the more people who were
employed, the less below the poverty line. This relationship did not hold true, however. In
many cases, reservations with more than 65% of the population gainfully employed also
had a very high percentage (45%+) of families below the poverty line (i.e. Navajo, Hopi,

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Fort Apache, Pine Ridge, etc.). See Figure 2.1. The second comparison was of the Per
Capita Income Derived from Leases to the Overall Area of the Reservation. The
associated hypothesis was that the more area (and consequently resources) on the
reservation, the higher the per capita income. Although other authors have found no
correlation here, none had done this type of spatial analysis.85 This comparison was
expected to be only vaguely useful (see below) and proved to be some of the most
scattered data. No relationship could be found between these two variables. See Figure
2.2. The third comparison looked at the relationship of Per Capita Income Derived from
Leases and Percent Below the Poverty Line. Common wisdom in economic development
on the reservations would indicate that there should be an inverse relationship between
per capita lease income and percent below the poverty. Most reservations are heavily
dependent on these lease-based activities for the majority of their income, and so it would
be expected that if lease income was high that the money would be used to help alleviate
poverty. In most cases (except for the Crow Reservation) this relationship held true. See
Figure 2.3.
The analysis conducted provided only directional information about economic
development on the reservations and some of the roots of its successes and failures.
Percentage of Families Below the Poverty Line is a common indicator of the relative
success of economic development efforts and consequently was used to examine various
factors related to economic development. It should first be noted that this metric is
somewhat problematic on the reservations because of the prevalence of informal
economies and barter oriented transactions (as discussed in Chapter 1 and above).
Nevertheless, it is still one of the most common metrics currently in use. This informal
economy may help explain the lack of a clear relationship between employment rates and
percent below the poverty line. It could also be an indicator of the types of jobs typically

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available on the reservation (i.e. often lower paying, government, or service jobs).
Additional data and further analysis would be required to draw conclusions in this area.
The need for improved economic development was certainly supported, however, by the
various statistics analyzed (unemployment, percent below poverty line, etc.) and
comparison of these metrics to results for the rest of the United States. The reservations
rank behind the rest of the US across all of the metrics analyzed, and this extends to
nearly any indicator of economic or social health. Poverty and unemployment rates, for
example, are two to three times or higher than those of the US as a whole.
The lack of a relationship between size of the land base and per capita income
from leases is also not surprising to anyone who understands the history of the
reservation system. In most cases, the reservations were created from land that was
thought to be unsuited for other things (i.e. settlement, etc.). In few cases did the
government know about any minerals or other valuable resources that might exist on the
reservations, other than those that could be readily seen. This helps explain the lack of
relationship. Those familiar with reservation economic development also know that the
associated issues, however, go deeper. Even when a sufficient resource base exists,
there are numerous factors that can contribute to the failure or sub-optimization of
economic development programs related to natural resources. Mismanagement, overuse,
price swings, and other factors have all contributed to the failure of many resource-based
economic development efforts on the reservations.
Finally, the comparison of income from leases and percent below the poverty line
helps reinforce the commonly held belief that most economic development efforts on the
reservations are resource-based. While there are many issues with the sustainability of
this type of economic development activities, the tribes are still heavily dependent on this
revenue to help beat back the ills of poverty.

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Again, these data elements are not intended to present a comprehensive picture
of all economic activity in the reservations. Rather, they serve to reinforce the point that
there is a strong need for economic development on reservations, and that natural
resources play a key role. Future research in this area should correlate gaming statistics
with spatial characteristics of the reservations to analyze similar correlations.

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
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Figure 2.1: Comparison of Percent Employed and Percent Below the Poverty Line
Size of Blue Circle equates to percentage of the reservation that is gainfully employed while size of
white letters denotes percentage of families below the poverty line.

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
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Figure 2.2: Comparison of Per Capita Income Derived from Mineral Leases and
Overall Reservation Area
Size of Red T equates to per capita income derived from mineral leases in dollars, while the color
shaded areas denote the overall size of the reservation (acres).

Next Generation of Indigenous Development
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Figure 2.3: Comparison of Per Capita Income Derived from Mineral Leases and
Percent Below the Poverty Line
Size of Red T equates to per capita income derived from mineral leases in dollars while size of
blue circles denotes percentage of families below the poverty line

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2.4 Gaming
When discussing economic development on the reservations today, one cannot
ignore the impact of gaming. The advent of casino gambling on the reservations has been
one of single biggest forces of change for some nations. A small number of reservations
have nearly completely reversed their economic fortunes through gaming, while many
others are either early in the process or are fighting for their own gaming operations.
Gaming in the form it takes on the reservations today is just over two decades old, but it is
having an impact well beyond the reservations themselves. In 2005, Indian gaming
exceeded Las Vegas gambling in terms of overall revenue for the first time.86 From
humble beginnings in bingo halls, Indian gaming has emerged as a force on the capitalist
scene. It is not, however, without its critics and its problems. Because of the significant
impact of gaming on the reservations, it will be examined specifically in this section.
One of the common myths surrounding Indian gaming is that somehow the United
States allowed tribes to open casinos. On the contrary, the right to operate casinos is
inherent in the sovereign status of Indian nations. Of course, as with anything else in
Indian Law, this is somewhat of an oversimplification, and certainly there is a regulatory
history surrounding Indian gaming.87 But fundamentally, gaming is enabled by inherent
sovereignty. This is just one of the many misunderstandings associated with Indian
Gaming. As Eve Darian-Smith points out in her study, gaming causes some of the biggest
misunderstandings between Indian and non-Indian communities whether related to the
legal context, tax implications, financial impact of gaming, criminal activity associated with
casinos or a host of other aspects. 88 For example, there is a common misperception that
there is an increase in criminal activity associated with the development and operation of
casinos. However, a number of studies refute this fact, and show in a number of cases

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that crime is actually reduced in communities where there are casinos.89 Yet the historical
misperception of inferiority of Indian culture reinforces the belief that somehow Indians will
be duped by unscrupulous businessmen or taken advantage of by criminals. The popular
media point to the influence of outside (non-Indian) investors in Indian gaming as an
argument against its proliferation. In reality, there are now rules that govern outside
ownership of Indian casinos and how much influence outsiders can have.91 The
arguments against non-Indian involvement seem hypocritical, given the history of
outsiders dumping waste on reservations, polluting the environment, siphoning water, and
a host of other transgressions without the protection of the government or redress for
these wrongs. Yet where there is an opportunity for tribes to actually benefit from the
activity, they must be kept from it for their own protection". 92 The success of Indian
gaming has challenged the myth that tribes are not capable of running their own affairs,
and a number of tribes have shown their savvy as business people through profitable
gaming operations. Through gaming, Indian nations have shown their ability to thrive in
the modem world and how they can play the capitalist game as well as the settlers from
an economic perspective.93 Games of chance have been part of Indian culture since early
history, and some gaming is incorporated into ceremonies. So the conflicts over the
morality of gaming are not as prominent in Indian communities, though certainly there are
concerns about the impact increased access to gaming might have on gambling addiction
in Indian communities.94 In fact, the integration of casinos into Indian communities and
the positive impacts challenge the concept of Indian culture as static and hopelessly mired
in tradition. 95 As discussed above, many Native American communities have found
means to integrate capitalist pursuits (such as gaming) in with their culture, and where
gaming has been successful in Indian communities, it has certainly been a
transformational force.

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Indian gaming has become a force to be reckoned with. In 2003, there were 330
Indian gaming operations with total revenue of more than $16.7B.96 As discussed above,
this revenue number is larger than the total revenues of Las Vegas gaming that same
year. While certainly these numbers are staggering in terms of the overall influx of
revenue into Indian country, the gains across individual nations have been uneven at best.
For example, 24% of the operations account for 79% of this total revenue, and many
tribes have more than one operation according to the National Indian Gaming
Commission definition. 97 These top operations bring in more than $50M in receipts per
year. Conversely, the bottom 39% bring in 2% of the total revenue, which equates to
annual receipts of less than $10M per operation. A recent article on gaming operations in
Wisconsin further demonstrates these uneven returns.98 Of nine gaming tribes in
Wisconsin, only three (the Potowatami, Mille Lacs, and Oneida) have seen a marked
decrease in poverty and a rise in income. The Potowatami in fact went from the lowest
median income to the highest among the reservations in Wisconsin. The Oneida used
proceeds from the casinos to transform their economy and get tribal members out of low-
paying or dangerous jobs, as well as to extend infrastructure to the reservation. The Mille
Lacs have made extensive investments in health and infrastructure, and reduced
unemployment from 60% to 0% through gaming and leveraging gaming into additional
economic development.99 The remaining tribes, however, are still mostly in poverty. This
dynamic has played out across Indian country. Researchers note two factors that
contribute most significantly to the success or failure of casinos geography and tribal
management.100 Numerous studies show that casinos that are located close to major
metropolitan areas consistently succeed and deliver strong returns. In fact, for some
casinos geography is the determinant factor with regards to success or failure. But this
factor is out of control of the individual reservations, and some are fortunate to have

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geographies that are more conducive to casinos. Where geography is favorable, tribal
management plays a role as well. Many of the tribes that have had management and
governance problems over time have also struggled to make their casino ventures
profitable or to attain the kind of economic transformation that more successful tribes have
Where gaming has been successful, the economic fortune and political power of
the tribe has been transformed. For the successful reservations, gaming is a source of
pride and hope, as well as renewed nationalism. It has helped bring people who had
moved away to find work back to the reservation, forming a better foundation for cultural
revival and preservation.101 So powerful is the impact of gaming, that it has often been
called the New Buffalo" for its ability to sustain and provide for the tribes as the buffalo of
the plains once did.102 In addition to the economic success of some tribes, gaming has
afforded political power and influence, as well as participation in the power structure of the
capitalist economy. Some businesses, for example, have been forced to change the way
they do business to accommodate the culture on the reservations if they want to be
successful in selling to the newly affluent Native American communities.103 Other nations
have been able to hire powerful lobbyists and influence the direction of policy in
Washington and elsewhere. Again, these gains have not been even across tribes, but a
number of tribes have seen this rise in power and influence.
Gaming has not, however, come without its negative effects. Certainly some tribes
have seen increases in gambling addiction rates and further siphoning of the economic
power of its members by their own participation in gambling activities.104 But one of the
most prominent issues has revolved around per capita distributions. Nearly 25% of the
tribes who have gaming distribute some or all of the proceeds on a per capita basis to the
members of the tribe.105 In cases such as the Shakopee, even though there are hundreds

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of thousands of dollars distributed to each member, conflicts over membership have
become brutal and have torn at the fabric of the community. Relatives have turned against
each other and accused each other of not being true Indians, and this dynamic has
repeated itself across a number of tribes. In fact, some of the more successful tribes point
to the fact that they limit per capita distribution as a critical success factor.106 In addition,
although most casinos have not seen the increase in crime or the influence of organized
crime, there have been cases where embezzlement, and kickbacks have damaged Indian
communities.107 Given some of the mixed impacts of gaming on the reservations, a
number of studies have been undertaken to determine the net impact of gaming across
Indian country. From these studies, a picture has emerged of gaming as a net benefit to
communities where it is introduced. For example, Taylor, Krepps, and Wang studied the
impact of gaming across Indian and non-Indian communities and found significant
economic and social benefit to these communities. In addition, they found no indication of
harmful effects across thirty key economic and social development indicators. Positive
impacts included moving from some of the worst unemployment problems to lower
unemployment than similar communities, net increases in earnings, and others.
Another study by Taylor, Kalt, and Grant echo these findings and note that the benefits
are still present even when weighed against increased traffic, infrastructure needs, etc.
Charmichael also notes that benefits accrue to both the tribe and the region in the form of
jobs, increased spending, and reinvestment into community and environmental
improvements.109 Overall, most researchers find that gaming has a net positive impact.
Indian communities look at gaming in a very different manner than traditional
casino operators. Traditional gaming companies focus on maximizing shareholder value
and profits for the end of building wealth for those who own stock or the casinos
themselves. In Indian communities, gains from casinos are seen more as public goods,

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and are reinvested into the development of the reservation communities.110 Even in
communities where most of the gains from casinos are distributed per capita, the goal is
community health and not individual wealth. Again, this aligns with the community
orientation of Indian communities and the dire needs in most of them. A number of
authors examine what tribes spend their gaming revenue on, and most of it falls into the
following categories:111
Healthcare (prevention, treatment, facilities, education, etc.)
Cultural Preservation and Advancement
Job Creation (new ventures, training, job creation, enterprise expansion, etc.)
Economic Diversification
Education (language, higher education, etc.)
Infrastructure improvement
Elimination of Public Assistance
Community Reinvestment
The range and diversity of community investments is nothing short of impressive, and is
doing much to counter centuries of oppression in communities where gaming is
successful. It should be noted that in terms of community reinvestment, this extends not
only to Indian communities themselves, but also to the surrounding areas. Charitable
contributions on the part of Indian tribes are significant and are significantly higher than
non-Indian casino operators.112 This is in spite of the fact that in many cases Indian
gaming operations must bear more in terms of payments to local governments than their
non-Indian counterparts. This comes in the form of payments for increased infrastructure
(police, fire, roads, etc.) on the part of the communities where the casinos reside.113 This
is in spite of the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that the casinos generate the
kinds of infrastructure demands that the tribes pay for. One of the most significant
differences in the way Indian gaming proceeds are used is the actual redistribution of
wealth. This takes a number of forms. In California, for example, gaming tribes set up a
fund to redistribute proceeds to non-gaming tribes, so that all might benefit from gaming

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success. In other cases, tribes that have been successful at gaming have funded
initiatives for other tribes and cross-tribal opportunities for cooperation and collaboration.
114 This is of course unheard of for non-Indian casino operators and does not align with
the fundamental tenants of capitalism. It does, however, align with the community
orientation of the tribes.
All this leads to the question of what tribes have given up to achieve gaming
success? Certainly, tribes have gained from an economic perspective and many have
leveraged these gains into both quality of life improvements, as well as fundamental
revitalization of the culture. But dynamics such as community conflict over per capita
distribution illustrate the negative influence that this type of capitalism has on the culture
and community harmony.115 To date, no comprehensive studies have been undertaken to
examine the full impact of gaming on Indian communities from a cultural perspective, but
this is a critical need. Chapter 3 has some indications for how to address potential
negative impacts from this use of capitalist tools for economic development.
2.5 Model of Economic Development Evolution
Based on the numerous studies of economic development on the reservations
that were used for this research, an archetypical evolution of economic development
activity can be extrapolated. This model shows how Native American nations typically
move along the path from economic devastation to self-determination from an economic
perspective.116 Certainly, there is variation among tribes in terms of how they move
through this model, but it does demonstrate common milestones. The model includes:

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Figure 2.4: Archetypical Evolution of Reservation Economic Development
Stage Characteristics of Stage
Stage 0 No significant economic development activity; small-scale enterprises that provide inconsistent or low revenue streams; economic development does not significantly enable the operations of the tribe or improve the life of the people
Stage 1 Economic development is focused on addressing poverty, unemployment, and underemployment to some degree, but has not made a sustainable impact on the tribe; one or a small number of mildly successful ventures that provide some employment and income; no transformational impact from economic development
Stage 2 Economic development has begun to have some positive economic impact on the tribe; one moderately successful venture that provides enough surplus income to invest in infrastructure (healthcare, education, basic services); Most investment is focused on meeting the tribes basic needs
Stage 3 Economic development has created enough income to make a sustainable improvement in meeting the basic needs of the tribe; Generally indicates one or more highly successful ventures; Investment in infrastructure continues with accompanying investment in cultural preservation, revival, and advancement including dances, language, etc.117
Stage 4 Economic development produces sustainable return that allows for investment in diverse improvement areas; Generally indicates one or more highly successful ventures; Additional focused placed on investments that promote long-term sustainability such as education, skills improvement, business expansion, land purchase, and environmental improvements
Stage 5 Focus on diversification of ventures for long-term sustainability; May include focus on building permanent endowment for ongoing revenue stream; Generally indicates multiple highly successful ventures
This model is intended to be a descriptive, rather than prescriptive model, and
denotes commonalities in the evolution of economic development on the reservations.
There are not formal gates for moving from one stage of the model to another, but rather
the stages are intended to portray a general level of evolution in economic development
efforts. Note that this model does not discuss specific economic development techniques
associated with a particular stage. Each tribe may use different strategies appropriate to
their unique situation to achieve the milestones associated with the stages above (i.e. a

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tribe need not start with gaming or achieve its success through gaming). The stages
above are more representative of a maturity model for economic development overall on a
reservation. It should be noted that even though some tribes have certainly achieved a
measure of success through gaming, only a few have truly made it to Stage 5 of the
model, though a number are moving quickly in that direction. Again, a comprehensive
view of economic development activity on the reservations is outside of the scope of this
paper.118 This paper is primarily concerned with macro-scale approaches to development,
their cultural foundations, and their impacts (positive and negative) on the reservation
itself. However, the overview in this chapter is important to understand the breadth of
economic development activities happening on the reservation. Chapter 1 of this research
was not intended to say that Native Americans arent capable of succeeding in a
capitalist-based system. To the contrary, this paper and other research shows that in
terms of economics, Indian enterprises can be highly successful. More important,
however, is the impact of this success on the communities themselves. This includes both
economic impact and the community and cultural health of the reservations. Some
authors reject the outright incompatibility of capitalist-based development on the
reservations, and point to a need to blend traditional culture with the market economy.119
But as discussed in Chapter 1, it is no easy feat to blend 2 such diametrically opposed
worldviews. As White and others have pointed out, many nations have found some means
to build a compromise between capitalism and traditional economy, but other authors note
that some Indian nations are starting to look more like corporations than tribes and that
the cost of economic success may have been too high.120 The remainder of this chapter
will be focused on what has gone wrong on the reservations in terms of cultural and
community impacts, as well as some practices that have been implemented that are more
aligned with traditional cultural values.

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2.6 Roots of Failure
Chapter 1 has an extensive discussion of the root of economic development
failure on the reservations culture. As referenced in that chapter, one of the fundamental
issues with economic development on the reservations is the capitalist foundation of
economic development theory, practice, and measurements, and its corresponding
incompatibility with the culture of Native Americans. This cultural clash leads to conflicts
over the means of economic development, poor results, and continued economic, cultural,
and environmental devastation on the reservations. As also referenced in Chapter 1, a
number of authors have pointed to other factors that drive the failure of economic
development programs. To recap, these include:
US Government action and inaction
Lack of investment in the infrastructure and capacity required to build
successful economic development
Hesitancy among outside investors because of a lack of understanding of
the legal and cultural framework on the reservations
Fear on the part of the tribes of assimilation
These issues touch on both cultural issues and other foundational problems with
reservation economic development. But they do not provide the full picture of challenges
on the reservation. Over the past fifteen years, extensive studies have been undertaken
that examine reservation economic development, and these have been referenced
throughout this study. These authors illustrate a range of factors that also hinder
reservation economic development.
One issue with economic development is the remote location of many
reservations. This physical isolation causes a number of issues including lack of direct
access to markets (to sell goods), problems with transportation infrastructure, lack of
access to suppliers, and a number of other issues.122 This can also manifest itself as a
lack of desirable land for development on the reservations, and no means to harness the

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power of real estate for seed capital (as many businesses do). Of course, this is not
surprising, as the reservations were often created on what was considered undesirable
land by settlers. This remote location has also extended to problems with access to
utilities and other critical infrastructure for development activities. These physical barriers
should not be underestimated, as economic development often begins with the use of
physical resources and infrastructure is critical to economic development success. Just as
important is the presence of appropriate skilled labor and trade knowledge to both
manage and execute economic development activities. Here again, many reservations
suffer from critical deficiencies.123 Overall, the level of educational attainment is lower on
the reservations, and there is a critical lack of skills in key areas (e.g. mining,
environmental planning, business skills, and others). This has often led to an unhealthy
reliance on outsiders and undue influence of these outsiders on economic development
activity. On the reservations, there is a history of Native Americans being taken
advantage of by outside interests, ranging from unscrupulous minerals companies to
100%+ markups on Native American crafts by middlemen that reduce the money that
flows back to the artisans themselves.124 To counter these outside influences, the tribes
have formed organizations such as the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT) to
increase knowledge sharing among the tribes with the goals of avoiding the traps
associated with dealing with outsiders and to increase the effectiveness of economic
development activities. This influence of outsiders extends to the ownership of economic
development ventures on the reservations, and the accompanying flow of proceeds. In
many cases, the tribes have partnered with or allowed outside companies to own and / or
manage economic development ventures on the reservations. Certainly this strategy has
in itself been a response to some of the challenges of getting economic development
started on the reservations, but it has led to money from the ventures themselves flowing

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to off-reservation entities, thus reducing the multiplier effect and positive economic impact
of these ventures on the reservation.125
Beyond these physical barriers, one of the most important issues on the
reservations is the lack of capital to invest in ventures themselves as well as development
of the skills and infrastructure required for economic development. This includes lack of
access to both cash and credit.126 Without the appropriate funding, many reservation
economic development ventures do not get off the ground, or do not have adequate
funding to become sustainable or expand when there is an opportunity. This need was
certainly illustrated by the survey conducted as part of this research, and a high
percentage of respondents noted the need for capital for either enterprise startup or
expansion. While the US government sees private capital markets as the solution and a
key source of funds for the reservation, there are challenges with this as well.127 As
discussed above, investors are often hesitant to bring their capital to the reservations
because of the unique political and cultural environment there. Outside investors do not
understand the unique political status of the reservations, and how business fundamentals
such as contract enforcement and jurisdiction over disputes work in this environment.128
Among the barriers to economic development, the authors referenced in this study find the
lack of clarity around the bounds of sovereignty as particularly salient.129 The status of the
reservations as sovereign nations provides a competitive advantage for economic
development (for example by allowing the operation of casinos), but the history of court
decisions focusing on just how sovereign the nations are, and the powers of federal, state,
and local governments relative to reservation governments has created confusion and
hindered economic development.130 No potential investor or off-reservation partner wants
to enter into a venture where the legality and bounds of authority are uncertain.

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A number of studies by Kalt and Cornell also find the influence of governance
structures and the effectiveness of governance on the reservations to be strongly linked to
the success or failure of economic development programs. Drawing on research with
more than 70 nations in the United States, they conclude that reservations that have
strong governments, whose policies support economic development, generally fare better
than weak governments. In addition, they find that many reservations that struggle with
economic development programs have governance structures that are inconsistent with
their traditional cultural values, and that this dissonance causes significant issues in the
successful execution of economic development programs. Often these governance
structures have been imposed on the reservation by the actions of the federal
government, and their imposition has caused significant friction within the nation. This
further exacerbates the factors outlined above such as investor hesitancy, but also causes
problems in the actual execution of development programs. Other authors also find that
the reservations do not make significant enough investment in the development of
governance capability and skills among its leaders.131 These findings align with the issues
of cultural dissonance referenced in Chapter 1.
It should be noted that these factors are explanatory across a wide range of
reservation situations. For example, while there are several reservations that have a
strong natural resources base, such as the Crow who are one of the largest owners of
coal resources in the world, but they are unable to successfully leverage these gains into
improved economic health. Other reservations that are much weaker in resource bases
have still been able to create significant economic activity and improve quality of life.
Overall, resource base and human capital was not found to be a significant factor in the
success or failure of economic development on the reservations, as discussed above.

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To address the multitude of issues associated with economic development on the
reservations, a new model must be created. This model must address not only the issues
of culture, but also the other challenges of development on the reservation. To begin to
craft this model, we will first look at what is working on the reservations.
2.7 Best Practices in Native American Communities
In spite of the many challenges surrounding economic development on the
reservations, there are some success stories. Some nations have created vibrant
economies firmly grounded in the values of their traditional culture that have a significant
positive impact on their members. Some of these nations have achieved this primarily
through gaming, while others have diversified their economy or taken a different strategy
altogether. This section is focused on what is currently working in terms of reservation
economic development. Broadly speaking, best practices in reservation economic
development fall into the following categories:
Governance and Culture
Relationship with Outside Entities
Environmental Management
These categories are part, but not all of the factors that are important to ensuring the long-
term success of development on the reservations (see Chapter 3 for a more complete
model). Each of these categories will be discussed in more detail here.
2.7.1 Governance and Culture
Governance and culture are the most significant predictors of economic
development success on the reservations, and they have been extensively studied in
terms of their linkage to development success. Wilkinson notes that there is not a single
case of successful economic development where the tribe is not in the drivers seat, and

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development in Native American communities that while somewhat simplistic, stresses
cultural compatibility in tourism planning and outlines several ways for non-native planners
to work within these communities to ensure cultural compatibility. She also stresses the
importance of leveraging the gains from economic development to increase cultural
preservation, thus continually reinforcing a cycle of culturally based economic
development. The more that development programs are tied to and reinforce the culture,
the better their chance of success. Guyette also advocates a comprehensive
development plan to guide development efforts that is created by the community and is
tied to the culture, and this strategy is affirmed by several authors.135
While a number of authors point to the importance of governance and its
grounding in culture, there is no agreement on the particular form of governance for
economic development that yields successful results. Some authors advocate establishing
a separate corporation for managing economic development ventures while others note
the ability to integrate this function within the tribal council. Certainly the research
conducted for this study shows success under both forms.136 In spite of the lack of
agreement on the form of governance, there is consensus that governance and culture
matter, and optimizing this will be discussed in Chapter 3.
2.7.2 Relationships with Outside Entities
As discussed throughout this research, economic development on the
reservations often involves outside entities. Whether this is the Bureau of Indian Affairs or
outside corporations or investors, the reality of economic development today is that it is a
collaborative venture. But as also discussed above, the history of collaboration with these
outside entities has not generally been a positive one, and Native Americans are rightfully
suspicious of these partnerships. While there is a long way to go, some nations have had

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more success in dealing with outside entities, and in some cases have been able to frame
the interactions in their own terms.137 The Passamaquoddies of Maine, for example, have
had some measure of success in both finding the right outside advisors to assist their
tribe, as well as in some cases the right outside partners to help build their ventures. Part
of the reason that they have had this success in dealing with outsiders is that they picked
the right people among their membership to interact with these outsiders. These
representatives were seen as credible by outsiders, and were grounded in both the culture
of the tribe and the ways of the settler world. Similarly, the Mississippi Choctaws have
created beneficial partnerships with the State of Mississippi and local governments for
joint recruiting, business promotion, etc. and have made these very successful.138 Other
authors similarly point to examples of successful collaboration, and a more detailed
approach for this aspect of economic development will be discussed in Chapter 3.
2.7.3 Environmental Management
As referenced briefly in the Governance section, a place where a number of tribes are
having success is in the area of environmental management. Studies show that natural
resources managed in line with more traditional environmental ethics outperform
traditional European / American management approaches in both economic and
environmental measures. A number of tribes have adopted environmental codes and
management strategies that are more aligned with traditional values. The Confederated
Salish and Kootenai Tribes, for example, are a model of environmental management and
have a heavy conservation philosophy, but use the wilderness designation of some of
their lands as a source of both revenue and preservation.139 This is achieved through
careful management and the prioritization of cultural goals over economic ones, even in
the face of declining timber revenues or other economic setbacks. In cases where the

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prioritization is this clear, the danger of trading traditional values for cultural ones is less
prominent, but in many cases the priorities are not that clear. Many tribes are forced into
choices between meeting basic needs and preserving natural Mother Earth in the manner
aligned with their traditional culture. In cases such as these, even environmental
management practices grounded in tradition could have the same long-term effect of
eroding cultural values. Some tribes have extended this environmental management
philosophy into broader entities such as the Menominee Sustainable Development
Institute, which focuses on making traditional environmental management a reality.140 It is
clear that this is an area where tribes have had some success in focusing on tradition,
while having a positive economic impact.
While all of the strategies discussed in these sections have been linked to
economic success on the reservations, they often have a significant drawback- they tie
the reservations more closely to a capitalist-based economy and risk the erosion of
traditional lifeways and cultural values on the reservation. Interestingly, all of the authors
surveyed point to cultural compatibility as key to the success of economic development,
but many subsequently recommend heavily capitalist-based economic development
strategies. That is, a number of the success factors advocated by the authors require
more close alignment to traditional capitalist principles and practices that are reflected in
the economic development strategies of a city or state. The exception, of course, is the
heavy emphasis on cultural computability, and the clear linkage between linking tradition
and governance. As already discussed, however, capitalism clashes significantly with the
traditional values of Native Americans, and so these conclusions are somewhat at odds.
On one hand tribes should ground themselves in tradition, while simultaneously putting in
place more of the foundations of capitalism? This implies that the short-term success of
some economic development efforts could lead to a longer-term erosion of cultural values,

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and a subsequent loss of the key to economic development success. No studies were
found that examine the long-term impacts of successful economic development on the
reservations in terms of cultural values and community health indicators. There is also a
lack of success stories of non-capitalist economic development strategies. This leads to a
significant gap in models that hold potential for long-term, culturally compatible economic
development on the reservations. Chapter 3 will attempt to bridge some of these gaps.

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3. Alternative Frameworks and New Synthesis
From the birth of the American republic, efforts by the United States government to
transform Native Americans to commercial life have gone awry. Much of the failure can be
attributed to greed or malevolence, as the resources that might allow Indians to compete
fairly with whites are continually being stripped away. But at base, the problem has been
structural the solutions of one people imposed on the problems of another."
- Robert H. White in Tribal Assets
Without economic independence, Native Americans are caught in a systemic cycle of
oppression, poverty, and marginalization that has existed since the earliest colonial
- Eve Darian-Smith in New Capitalists 141
3.1 Introduction
As the quotes above illustrate, economic development is at the very heart of the
future well being of Native Americans. Economic independence provides the foundation
for the cultural preservation and evolution of indigenous peoples. But as the previous
chapters discuss, most of the economic development undertaken to date has not yielded
economic independence. In many cases, it has actually eroded the cultural values of
Native American communities and caused them to become more deeply connected to the
global capitalist system, which is at its heart incompatible with the traditional worldview of
indigenous peoples. Some tribes have made significant gains through gaming, and have
created strong economies on the reservation by leveraging these gains. However, there is
strong consensus that gaming wont last forever.142 The significant gains from gaming
could be reduced or eliminated by government action such as legalization of gaming
(creating increased competition and reducing the revenues of Indian casinos), additional
taxation, or market saturation. Similarly, natural resources are finite, and their continued
exploitation in and of itself is a concern to Native Americans.143 So what is the key to
future economic development success on the reservations? How can diverse communities
with a range of needs, assets, skill, and outlooks create a sustainable economy that is

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compatible with their worldview? We first turn briefly to emerging practices in other areas
of economic development that may hold some promise for Native American communities.
Many of these practices are in their early stages, and have not been fully studied to
understand their impacts and pitfalls, but on their face, some hold promise for a more
compatible approach to economic development.
3.2 Microenterprise
Microenterprise as a concept is in many ways a response to the failure of large-
scale industrialization efforts in developing countries focused on alleviation of poverty, and
has subsequently come into its own as an economic development strategy.144
Microenterprise was first used successfully in many of the Lesser Developed Countries,
and later became part of the strategy of developed countries in countering poverty. The
international development agencies are placing increasing focus on the development of
microenterprise, as evidenced by programs such as USAIDs $18 million AMAP
(Accelerated Microenterprise Advancement Program) or the efforts of the participants in
the 1997 Microcredit Summit, who have pledged to raise more than $8 billion for
microcredit and microenterprise development.145 Microenterprise programs are economic
development activities focused on the creation and expansion of small-scale business
through loans (microcredit), training, and technical assistance in the startup, growth, and
ongoing maintenance of these businesses. In contrast with traditional economic
development programs, microenterprise is not focused on large-scale job creation through
industrial development and focuses primarily on empowering low-income populations.
The enterprises created through microenterprise encompass all sectors of the economy
including services, retail, manufacturing, etc. and provide significant opportunity to the
low-income populations that they serve. While microenterprise is gaining popularity,

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particularly in the international development space, there are certainly problems
associated with its implementation, including choice of where to focus resources,
balancing creation of jobs with promotion of economic self-sufficiency, and the potentially
negative impacts on the participants in the programs. In spite of these issues,
microenterprise offers increasing promise as an economic development strategy,
particularly in communities that rely on informal economies.146
In some ways, the concept of microenterprise also holds some potential for Native
American communities. Microenterprise has been used successfully in indigenous
communities around the world to create development opportunities consistent with their
worldview that returned real quality of life gains.147 While the concept of microenterprise
has some ties to capitalism, it can be implemented in ways that are consistent with the
culture of indigenous peoples, and examples of this exist on the reservations today. For
example, the White Mountain Apache manage an Elk hunt that nets the nation more than
$1.5M per year for a very limited number of hunts that are conducted consistent with
Apache customs. Another example is the Cultural Center and Museum (as well as its
associated enterprises) on the Pojoaque Pueblo that showcases the culture of that nation
and aids them in their cultural preservation efforts.148 By focusing microenterprise
development on ventures that are consistent with the overall development philosophy of
the nation, and leveraging those enterprises to achieve real improvements in community
health, this strategy can also be employed to improve development on the reservation. In
addition, microenterprise is designed to have less impact on the environment and less
chance to damage the natural and cultural resources of the tribe, and therefore creates
less conflict with traditional values.

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But microenterprise has some drawbacks as well. First, microenterprise by nature
is smaller in scale, and consequently does not create the level of economic returns that
can sustain an entire community and create the resources for cultural evolution. In many
ways, its is similar to the informal economy on many reservations in that it creates
supplemental income for individuals and/or the tribe itself. Roche conducted a study of
microenterprise development on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations in South
Dakota. She concluded that while microenterprise could serve as a source of
supplemental income on the reservations, the same problems that plague larger-scale
economic development impact microenterprise development.147 These include
government policies, cultural values, and broader access to markets. She also noted that
some microenterprise development had the potential to jeopardize supplemental income
sources such as government subsidies, and therefore had to be approached carefully.
This is a second key issue with microenterprise on many reservations and a critical
consideration where government subsidies still form a significant portion of the means of
subsistence. However, if used as a supplemental aspect of a broader set of economic
development strategies, this kind of negative consequence can be avoided. The third
potential issue with microenterprise is that it is still tied with the capitalist system. Though
the nature of microenterprise allows that tie to be somewhat more distant, Native
American communities who implement microenterprise strategies must be careful that
these activities are fundamentally compatible with their worldview. Overall,
microenterprise does hold some potential to improve economic development on the
reservation if implemented carefully.

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3.3 Reforms in International Development
Several reform efforts have begun to show some success at increasing the
effectiveness of programs in the international development arena. For example, research
shows that the fastest growing economies have the best institutions and government
policies. It has already been noted that this is a critical consideration when looking at
development, and successful governance of economic development has come in the form
of flexible and decentralized organizations that are responsive to local needs. These are
often network organizations composed of government, local businesses, citizens, non-
profits, and development organizations. This is in contrast to the current model of control
primarily by development agencies, with some minimal involvement from governments
and other stakeholders.149 These types of network organizations have been used in
successful economic development programs in South America and elsewhere. Similarly,
programs should ensure that the communities that they are meant to serve are involved in
the design, development and implementation of the projects to ensure that they meet local
needs and are sustainable by local personnel.150 These network organizations are often
based on collaborative governance, and give real opportunities for participation and
ownership of the economic development programs on the part of the communities they
serve. When looking at governance practices themselves, governments and organizations
at all levels must seek to restructure and simplify the administrative processes that
surround economic development initiatives to make them more responsive to the needs of
the people they serve. Desoto, for example, notes that starting a business in most Less
Developed Countries can involve dozens of steps and take 2 or more years to complete
the process. Similar issues have been found on the Navajo reservation and in other
reservation communities.151 This hinders the ability of community entrepreneurs to get
their ventures off the ground, and also limits outside investment. That is not to say that the

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governance processes should not be consistent with community values and a reflection of
the culture, but rather that they should be streamlined to the degree possible to ensure
that unnecessary barriers are not created. Development must be sensitive to the
community culture and environment to be successful, but that does not mean that it
cannot be efficient as well.
David Korten puts forth a definition of economic development that embodies the
direction of many reforms in international development today. He describes this concept
of people-centered development as:152
a process by which people increase their human, institutional, and technical
capacities to produce the goods and services needed to achieve sustainable
improvements in their quality of life using the resources available to them.
This implies a process that takes into account the needs of the people it serves and is
responsive to those needs. It also implies a significant focus on the human elements of
economic development, rather than just macroeconomic policy. While this philosophy has
certainly not been widely accepted within international development circles, it does
provide some potential for reforming development on the reservations. By reframing
economic development in more human terms, the focus and activities necessarily change.
This redefinition of economic development and associated measures will be discussed in
more detail below.
3.4 Other Success Stories
There is a distinct lack of success stories in economic development that are not
fully integrated into the capitalist framework. The most commonly cited success story
outside of capitalism is the Mondragon Cooperatives in the Basque Country in Spain.153
These cooperatives were generally considered in the late 1970s and early 1980s as the
most successful examples of cooperatives in the world, and a model for economic

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development outside of capitalism. These cooperatives displayed several characteristics
that were antithetical to capitalist approaches to development, including: worker
ownership, egalitarian salary structures, priority for locally produced goods, and direct
democracy in governance. By 1997, these cooperatives were employing more than
34,000 members and had strong financial health and increasing profitability. In recent
years, however, the cooperatives have found themselves limited in their ability to grow,
and have to some degree shifted to more capitalist based strategies and structures,
disrupting some of the principles such as worker ownership and egalitarian pay structures.
There were numerous factors that contributed to this move from the traditional basis of
success, and while there are still many positive aspects of the cooperative model, its
potential as a long-term economic development strategy in its purest form is somewhat in
Healy describes similar results in his study of indigenous communities in Bolivia.
The El Ceibo organization, for example, is a community-based organization focused on
chocolate production and related industries. At their start, the organization very much
reflected the values of the indigenous peoples and governance was cooperative and
collaborative. This included decision by assembly, leadership rotation, and consensus-
based decision-making. In addition, the goals and focus of the organization were defined
in indigenous terms, and the accompanying techniques and measures were focused on a
revitalization of indigenous culture.154 El Ceibo moved from basic production oriented
towards local markets (more of a microenterprise model) to production for export. These
export goods were sold primarily through community based organizations to customers
around the world who were willing to pay a premium for socially responsible products that
support indigenous communities. The organization has been successful in terms of
economic return, but over time, it has lost many of the initial elements of indigenous

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governance and community orientation. These changes were primarily caused by the
need to integrate more fully into the global capitalist system in order to increase their
economic returns. This is similar to the Mondragon experience. While the people of El
Ceibo saw these changes as a natural evolution and compatible with their cultural outlook
(and certainly authors such as Hosmer and Francisconi would agree), Healy disagrees
and notes his own observations of change in the outlook of the people over time.
Both of these experiences again raise the question of the impact of capitalist-
based economic development on indigenous communities. Both began as organizations
that very much reflected the traditional values of the communities they served, but both
changed as they moved through the lifecycle of capitalism. While there is disagreement
over whether these changes were deliberate and their compatibility with the values of the
indigenous communities, there is no denying that there were fundamental changes. We
will next examine a new model that integrates the best of current practice and emerging
reforms, while also maintaining a uniquely Native American foundation.
3.5 New Synthesis
Despite the lack of previously proven models for successful economic
development outside of capitalism, a synthesis model of economic development on the
reservations is still possible. Blending best practices in international development,
reservation economic development, local economic development, and other sources, a
model begins to emerge that holds potential for success. Key to this model, however, is
redefining what successful economic development means, and how it is measured.155
In examining economic development programs both on and off the reservation,
measures such as per capita income, percent below the poverty line, wage increases,
export percentages, consumption rates, and balance of trade measures are often used to

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assess effectiveness. These are very traditional measures in economic development
practice, but what do they really say about the ambitions of Native American communities
and their achievement of these ambitions? Does per capita income or consumption rates
say anything about the health of the community or the quality of life of the people?
Percent of people below the poverty line may be indicative of hunger in a community, but
if that community is based upon barter or communal provision of food, the measure could
be irrelevant. Following capitalist reasoning, these indicators are meaningful to some
degree in measuring quality of life (based on trickle down theories), but in indigenous
communities living according to traditional values, they fall significantly short. When
looking at development on the reservations, Kortens definition of people-centered
development (above) holds more promise for outlining the goals of these activities. His
definition stresses achieving sustainable quality of life improvements using available
resources. This is much more congruent with the Native American worldview, particularly
the focus on meeting the needs of the community and living well within the capacity of
nature. Using people-centered development as a working definition, a different set of
indicators of development success on the reservation can be envisioned. These
indicators would focus on the overall health of the community and the people within it, and
could include:
Monitoring the health of environmental and natural resources
Measuring the incidences of hunger and homelessness in the community
Examining incident rates of diseases such as hypertension and diabetes
within the community (or other health indicators)
Examining the effectiveness of cultural preservation efforts
Measuring rates of addiction to alcohol and drugs
This is certainly just a small sampling of the possible measures of community health, and
each community should define those that are important to them and best measure the
achievement of their communitys ambitions. More on potential metrics appears below.

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The communities also do not necessarily have to use Korten's definition of development,
but should define development in their own terms as a first step. This definition and its
associated goals must be firmly grounded in the culture of the nation and must not be
purely focused on economics (capitalism), but rather on the health and welfare of the
community. The author would advocate that Native American communities look at actually
eliminating economic measures for their development programs. In the reservation
context, economic measures do not truly measure the outputs of development programs.
Economic measures show how much money is in a community and how that changes
over time, but are not true indicators of community impact, or frankly, of results at all. A
community could significantly increase per capita income for example, while also
increasing want or homelessness in that same community. This certainly occurs with
many Western development programs that result in increased concentration of wealth and
polarization of rich and poor. Native American leaders and communities should focus on
measuring what matters the improvement in quality of life and sustainability of culture.
Once a definition of development for that community and the accompanying goals
and measures have been established, there are many best practices from both Western
and reservation economic development that can be employed to help achieve these
ambitions. In examining the numerous strategies described throughout this paper, several
hold particular promise for helping Native American communities achieve these self-
defined ambitions, including:156
Creation of a comprehensive plan for how to accomplish development goals and
the culturally grounded guiding principles for development efforts
Matching governance to the culture of the nation and the goals of the
development plan
Defining the unique advantages of the reservation and how they can be used to
achieve the development goals
Creating networks of reservation governance, non-profits, regional governments,
and private corporations to further development goals, with the express protection
of the culture and resources of the nations as a guiding principle

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Managing the development programs and their results in ways consistent with the
culture and values of the nation and ensuring local control of these programs
Leveraging the gains of development into cultural preservation and increases in
quality of life, thus creating additional strength for further development efforts
Continuing to push for self-determination and status as independent nations
(beyond the concept of sovereignty)
Resisting acculturation and further immersion into the capitalist system
Obviously, Native American culture is not homogenous, and different reservations will
define development, its goals, and their strategies to achieve them differently. This is
appropriate, and it is more important that development is approached in a way consistent
with that peoples worldview than it is to follow some sort of pre-defined formula. It should
also be noted that there might indeed be some aspects of capitalism that are appropriate
to the particular culture and ambitions of some nations, and in those cases it should be
utilized. Again, the key to success is not simply an outright rejection of capitalism, but
also a return to the traditional culture and lifeways of the people as a foundation for
development programs. The next section develops a framework for how Native American
communities can begin to create their development programs in alignment with these
It is clear that a framework that is uniquely indigenous is required to truly create
effective development on the reservations. The very definition of development on the
reservations must be rooted in the cultural framework of indigenous peoples and
consistent with both their traditional lifeways and the evolution of their culture through
time. The solution requires a fundamental redefinition of the purpose of economic
development. Anthony Hall quotes Richard White as he characterizes just how much the
traditional capitalist view of development was anathema to Indian people: Among Indians
themselves, market relations were such a threatening and destructive relationship that all
these nations resisted them, with temporary success, for generations.157 They

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recognized the fundamental incompatibility with their traditional lifeways, but were
eventually forced into the current state by a long history of actions. For Indian
communities, the term economic development should certainly not be foremost in the
language of practitioners on the reservation. The focus of development programs must be
on the cultural survival and evolution of the people, and on meeting the needs of the
community in a way that aligns with the fundamental values of the people. Several authors
pose alternative definitions of economic development that might be more appropriate as a
guide for Native American communities. For example, Hall notes that the purpose of
economic activity should be to serve the cultural imperatives of distinct peoples.158 This
sort of culture first definition resonates more easily with the worldview of indigenous
communities. Hall further underscores the need for economic diversity by linking it to the
principles of biodiversity and states there can be no true self-determination for the earths
distinct peoples unless they can defend and fashion diverse regimes of economic
relations that both support and manifest the primary ideals inherent in each of the worlds
many cultures.159 Bordewich quotes Charles Wilkinsons articulation of what is needed
for a path forward when he defines the need to balance stable, improving economies with
indigenous rights and the environment in An ethic of place (that) respects equally the
people of a region, and the land, animals, vegetation, water, and air...and includes a
dogged determination to treat the environment and its people as equals, to recognize both
as sacred, and to insure that all the members of the community not just search for but
insist upon solutions that fulfill that ethic.160 This is obviously in stark contrast to an
approach to development based on economics and is indicative of the level of values and
culture that must factor in to any definition and approach to economic development for
indigenous communities. A working definition of Indigenous Development that this author
would propose (based on many of the theories presented in this paper) would be:

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Indigenous Development is a place-based process by which indigenous
communities provide for the basic needs of their people while also
advancing their cultural ambitions. Development activities in this context
must be focused on advancing the collective community, must evolve in a
manner consistent with the traditional lifeways of the community itself, and
must be managed in a way consistent with the traditional governance of the
community. Participation in this process by non-community members must
be undertaken in a manner consistent with the cultural ambitions of the
community and fully respectful of the rights of self-determination of that
This definition can be used as a starting point for Native American communities in
crafting their own frameworks. It includes the essential elements that can create an
alternative framework for development on the reservations. First, it focuses on meeting
the basic needs of the communities. This is purposely not framed in economic terms
within the definition. As has been discussed, the goals of indigenous communities are not
focused around economic achievement, but more importantly, it is also clear that
indigenous communities need far more than just money to flourish. This introduces the
element of advancing cultural ambitions. For indigenous communities to continue to
evolve, they must have the ability to both preserve and evolve their cultures. This means
their religion, ceremonies, environmental ethic, community bonds, collective orientation,
and a host of other elements of indigenous culture. The definition also references two
specific aspects that are not considered in traditional views of economic development a
focus on place and recognition of collective rights. Both of these are antithetical to
traditional capitalist views, but paramount in indigenous worldviews. These fundamental
premises themselves hold significant potential for reframing how economic development
practice is undertaken on the reservations. Further guidance is also given by the definition
on the topic of participation both by community members and any participation by those
outside the community. These elements of the definition are again focused on countering
many of the challenges that have been encountered on the reservations by economic

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development efforts to date. It puts the burden on both indigenous community leaders to
reject capitalist frameworks of development and on outsiders who want to participate (i.e.
profit) from development on the reservations to proceed in a manner that is consistent
with both the cultural paradigm and the governance structures of indigenous peoples. This
alternative definition, however, also has relevance outside indigenous communities. Many
governments and development agencies are seeing the lack of progress and negative
impacts of their development efforts, and are searching for means to make it more
effective. Coupled with the rise in influence of some indigenous peoples as their economic
ventures have been successful, there is somewhat of a willingness to look to indigenous
communities for solutions to development problems.161
Creating a new definition of development does not in and of itself solve the many
issues with how development is conducted on the reservations. However, it does create a
different frame that has the potential to drive different results. By setting the boundaries of
development squarely within the context of the indigenous worldview, the methods used
to conduct development activities on the reservation must necessarily change. In addition,
the measures / metrics used to judge development success and failure must change.
Metrics must evolve to define development success in terms of the overall health of the
community, preservation, cultural evolution, and collective advancement. There will not,
however, be a one size fits all set of metrics for indigenous economic development.
While they share many similarities in overall outlook, indigenous communities are many
and diverse and their cultures and lifeways show many differences. In addition, their own
experience with settler governments have forced their cultures to evolve in different ways,
and consequently each community starts from a different place. The section below on
metrics outlines some directions that may be helpful to Native American communities in
crafting their metrics, but is in no way comprehensive. What is important is to give the

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Masters Thesis Brian E. Wilkerson
reservation communities the tools and frameworks to develop their own metrics, rather
than creating a prescriptive set of measures. It is the prescriptive solutions of outsiders
over the years that have caused so much damage to the reservations throughout history.
Let us next turn to a more detailed model for development success in Native American
3.6 Success Factors
In examining the many studies of economic development in Native American
communities, there are a number of common themes or considerations that have been
discussed throughout this research. In the authors view, there are a number of key
success factors that must be addressed in order to ensure that development programs are
successful in Native American communities. These are represented in the diagram below
and discussed in subsequent sections.
Figure 3.1: Indigenous Development Key Success Factors

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3.6.1 Governance
Governance is certainly one of the most important factors for ensuring successful
development programs in Native American communities, as has been discussed
throughout this research. It has also certainly been one of the most problematic factors on
the reservations. Many of the reservation governments are a product of BIA-influence and
have lost many of the traditional approaches to governance within Native American
communities. Certainly this is not universally true, and a number of reservations that have
been successful from a development perspective certainly have governance that is
grounded in the traditional ways. But for many, this is still a key area to address to ensure
that development programs are successful. Governance should not be seen merely in the
context of economic development programs. Instead, there needs to be a focus on
improving governance overall and that flowing through to oversight of development
programs. A number of authors have made this linkage between development and the
very exercise of sovereignty on the reservations. A number of these same authors point to
the return to more traditional methods of governance as key to cultural revitalization in
Native American communities.162 At the same time, it is the sovereign status of the
reservations that gives them an advantage in terms of crafting effective development
programs. The reservations have more flexibility in terms of the types of development
programs they choose and the conditions attached to them.
There are two primary roles for governance around development programs on the
reservations: Guardian and Planner. The Guardian role must include ensuring that
development is focused on the well being of the people and positive community impacts,
as well as reflects the values of the community. This is where the delicate act of ensuring
successful development and guarding against cultural erosion happens. If the governance
structures on the reservations are not up to the task, both economic failure and cultural

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denigration are the result. While this task seems conceptually simple, the influence of
capitalism over time on the reservations should not be underestimated. Many reservations
are not even fully aware of how capitalism has permeated the way things get done. There
is not a conscious recognition of how capitalism has directly impacted the cultural values
of the community, and how this has become reflected in the governance structures. As
discussed above, Alfred is one author who advocates for a return to governance that is
wholly indigenous, and there are a number of examples of where this has been
successful. Young discusses how the Kuru Development Trust serves as a coordinating
body for development programs among the Basarwa, and how this group is responsible
for handling all aspects of development planning and management in a manner consistent
with the vision and values of the community. Their focus on maintaining and evolving
cultural identity through development has led to improved economic results, increased
community participation, and cultural integrity.163 Similar dynamics exist within the Nyae
Nyae Farmers Cooperative and Nyae Nyae Development Foundation in Namibia. The
more that development is linked to the traditional culture and values, the more sustainable
positive impact it will have on the community. Healy discusses the efforts of the Aymara in
Bolivia and how their efforts focused on a revitalization of traditional crops, livestock, diet,
language, culture, and a host of other factors to drive their economic development
programs. The more they aligned with their traditional ways of life, the more successful
they became. A quote from one of the leaders of the indigenous groups puts it best:
(referencing the Western approach to development that had become dominant in Bolivia)
This approach emphasizes the materialistic side of progress by equating development
with the economic aspects of life. As Indian peasants, we certainly aspire to economic
development in our country, yet we insist that it take place within a framework that uses
our own cultural values as its point of departure.164

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Some may see this idea of resource guardianship as impractical or naive. Given
the powerful influences of colonialism and capitalism over time, some may argue that it is
not possible to fully recapture traditional lifeways. Some may even argue that it is not
desirable to do so, and that the ambitions of Native Americans themselves have changed.
However, the recommendations in this research do not advocate simply eliminating
everything that has developed in Native American communities since contact and
returning to pre-contact civilization. However, it does call for a very focused re-
examination of what has been integrated into Native American culture over time and what
impact it has had. It calls for a purposeful reconnection with the ways of the past and the
voices of the ancestors to determine what changes are desirable and appropriate. And it
does call for a rejection of some of the trappings of capitalism and a realignment of the all
aspects of development on the reservation with this redefined view of tradition and culture.
The concept of resource guardianship is not impractical. Rather, it is critical to creating
economic development that meets the needs of the community today and tomorrow, while
preserving what it is that makes them indigenous in the first place. Each nation will have a
different way of doing this, as each cultural tradition is different. But it wont be
accomplished in a tribal council meeting. It will be accomplished by the same means that
the nations have sought guidance from their ancestors in the past. It will include heeding
the wisdom of the elders and of the spiritual traditions. And it will likely look nothing like a
traditional visioning session that a local government or international development agency
would undertake. But this vision and definition of development for that particular
community is the critical first task of governance. All other outputs of the development
process flow from this vision and definition.