Economic Development in Indian Country

Economic Development in Indian Country

Native peoples' cultural survival depends upon economic development. As more and more Native Americans must leave their communities to feed their families, it is increasingly difficult to maintain and develop cultural strengths. But tribal economic development is not easy, particularly in the midst of sometimes hostile state and local actors. Moreover, done poorly, tribal economic development can destroy the very values Native peoples' seek to protect. In this class we will explore how tribes and their citizens can promote economic development while safeguarding important cultural values.

This course will be a very practical, interdisciplinary course that aims to explore economic development in Native communities from the perspective of "indigenous planning," an emerging theory of action among tribal community planners focusing on land tenure and culture as they relate to community development. Graduate students in Planning and Law will work together to understand indigenous planning and the legal framework within which development in Native communities occurs. Students will work on interdisciplinary teams, each developing a case study and explanatory materials on an economic development project in a Native community. Students will be required to prepare materials and one or more presentations to tribal groups about the issues and possible strategies to address them.

A warning: this will not be a typical, read-and-discuss, seminar. Members of the class will often be required to work independently of the professors, to seek out appropriate materials and information, and to figure out how to make their conclusions and recommendations accessible to non-lawyers. Because real people, struggling with real problems, will rely on the work produced, the expected standard will be unusually high.