Sovereignty, Political Economy, and Economic Development in Native American Nations
Guedel, William Gregory
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The severe and chronic lag in the empirical indicators for Native American socio-economic development has created, in the words of President Obama, “a moral call to action.” Although collective statistics indicate substantial development problems among the 566 federally recognized tribes, these empirical indicators do not manifest uniformly across all Native American nations. This prompts a basic but crucial question: Why are some Native American nations developing more successfully than others? This dissertation examines the theoretical basis and practical applications of tribal sovereignty and presents a new methodology for analyzing the development conditions within Native American nations, utilizing a qualitative assessment of the relative state of a tribe’s formal institutional development and informal institutional dynamics. These foundational elements of the tribal political economy—rather than any specific economic activities—are the prime determinants of a tribe’s development potential. Tribal governments that emphasize the advancement of their institutional structures and the strengthening of citizen cooperation within their communities are more likely to achieve their self-directed development goals, and this paper provides specific examples and recommendations for enhancing sustainable economic development within a tribal political economy.