Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Governance and Development (review)
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Reviewed by
Miriam Jorgensen, ed. Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Governance and Development. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2007. 384 pp. Paper, $20.00.

The paucity of published research on contemporary Indian development immediately earns this edited text attention from scholars in the fields of Native and indigenous studies as well as those interested in the sovereignty efforts and expressions of "dependent domestic nations" undertaking or continuing the project of nation building. The latter could and should include leaders in Indian Country, those who work for and with them, as well as policy makers and advocates of indigenous self-determination.

Rebuilding Native Nations is the latest book to come out of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (Joseph Kalt and Stephen Cornell, codirectors), which worked in partnership with the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI) at the University of Arizona to produce this book. Jorgensen states: "Both NNI and the Harvard Project operate on the principle that our work is not useful unless it is done in service to Native America" (xii), and I kept this key assertion as well as the subtitle of the book—Strategies for Governance and Development—in mind as I read and evaluated Rebuilding Native Nations.

Contributing authors primarily come to the project with backgrounds in political science, economics, and law, with emphasis on public policy. Eight of the fifteen are Native (not including the authors of the foreword and afterword, both Native); several have served in tribal government. All have considerable experience working in Indian Country in the United States and Canada and provide case studies and examples, sometimes fictionalized or disguised to protect individuals or communities, illustrating failings and successes in efforts to rebuild Native nations. Jargon and overly academic language are relatively absent, making Rebuilding Native Nations approachable and usable for a wider readership.

The book is organized in four parts: "Starting Points," "Rebuilding the Foundations," "Reconceiving Key Functions," and "Making It Happen." Chapter authors provide clear discussions of strategies developed and applied by tribes and other governmental entities. One chapter provides definitions of development, governance, and culture. Of particular interest is the disclaimer that the authors "take no position on which of these strategies or economic conceptions is the 'right' one.… Our interest, instead, is in the choices they (Indian nations) make as they assume control over development and over the futures they imagine for themselves" (39). They define development thus: "the process by which a community or nation improves its economic ability to sustain its citizens, achieve its sociocultural goals, and support its sovereignty and governing processes" [End Page 564] (36). To define governance, the authors turn to the Honorable Thomas Tso, first chief justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court: "When people live in groups or communities, they develop rules and guidelines by which the affairs of the group may proceed in an orderly fashion and the peace and harmony of the group may be maintained" (41). Both definitions are meant to be "spacious" (the authors' intent) and inclusive, with emphasis being on the specifics of development and governance as defined by tribal communities. In the case of culture, the discussion centers on what the authors label cultural match or what anthropologists might term cultural consistency.

Evaluation and judgment of development and governance strategies is based not on stereotypical assumptions concerning appropriate strategies (see Ronald Neizen, The Origins of Indigenism: Human Rights and the Politics of Identity [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003]) but on external (noncommunity) and internal evaluations of effectiveness in meeting goals as defined by the tribal community. Additional contextualization may be provided as well, perhaps relating similar dynamics in nontribal settings, such as Kenneth Grant and Jonathan Taylor's brief discussion of the move toward privatization by non-tribal governments in their chapter on connections between business and governance. By tying their research and analysis to the broader body of work on nation building, the authors effectively reduce the potential for marginalization common to indigenous topics.

Joseph P. Kalt and Stephen Cornell provide in the first chapter their argument, based on two decades of research and evidence, that there is a successful approach to development and model the...