The More Indigenous Nations Self Govern, The More They Succeed


Harvard Kennedy School Professor Joseph Kalt and senior director Director Megan Minoka Hill say the evidence is in: When Native nations make their own decisions about what development approaches to take, studies show they consistently out-perform external decision makers like the U.S. Department of Indian Affairs. Kalt and Hill say that’s why Harvard is going all in, recently changing the name of the Project on American Indian Economic Development to the Project on Indigenous Governance and Development—pushing the issue of governance to the forefront—and announcing an infusion of millions in funding.  

When the project launched in the mid-1980s, the popular perception of life in America’s indigenous nations—based largely in reality—was one of poverty and dysfunction. But it was also a time when tribes were increasingly being granted increased autonomy from the federal government and were increasingly starting to govern themselves. Researchers also noticed that unexpected tribal economic success stories were starting to crop up, and they set about trying to determine those successes were a result of causation or coincidence. Kalt and Hill say the research has shown that empowered tribal nations not only succeed economically themselves, they also become economic engines for the regions that surround them. The recent announcement of $15 million in new support for the program, including an endowed professorship, will help make supporting tribal self-government a permanent part of the Kennedy School’s mission.  

Resource Type

Ralph Ranalli (Host). (June 8, 2023). The More Indigenous Nations Self Govern, The More They Succeed. Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast Ep. 254. Harvard University. Audio podcast episode. Retrieved from:…

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