Read my 2001 Oregon Law Review article on American Indian economic development issues.
Indian Country Today reports today on the March 26 conference at Idaho Law School entitled “Living in Balance: Tribal Nation Economics and Law.”
Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Samuel Penney welcomed everyone to “Nez Perce country” and talked of the economic impact of his tribe on Idaho. He cited a study done by the University of Idaho that showed the tribe is the second largest employer in the region and has an equally significant economic impact.
Robert Miller, a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland and a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, spoke about “Tribal Economics from an Indigenous Perspective.” He stated that economic development is the most important issue facing tribal governments today.
“Without economic development on reservations, how are Native communities going to continue to survive? If there are not decent jobs. … not decent housing. … decent schools, where they can raise their children, what is going to keep a coherent, cohesive community together in Indian country today? The most important issue is to create economies on the reservations.”
Gabe Galanda, an enrolled citizen of the Round Valley Indian Tribe and an attorney with Williams Kastner in Seattle, keynoted the day and spoke on “Indian Economic Sovereignty and Sustainability.”
“Without tribal small business and tribal private sector, which does not yet exist in any meaningful way in Indian country, economic sovereignty will never, ever, be realized.”
He encouraged tribes and individuals to “Buy Indian,” citing the need to recirculate money on reservations and to rely upon each other within Indian communities. He used Yakama Juice and Sister Sky as two good examples of failure to do this. Yakama Juice produces a variety of high quality products, yet “not one casino, tribal hotel, or restaurant uses it.” Sister Sky is a small company owned by two Spokane Indian sisters who produce lotions, hair products and the like which are high quality and culturally appropriate, but again not used in tribal enterprises. “Shame on us,” Galanda said.
Professor Stacy Leeds from the University of Kansas School of Law and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma spoke on the role of tribal courts in tribal economics, and Professor Matthew Fletcher from Michigan State University College of Law, a citizen of the Grand Traverse Band, discussed the Supreme Court and the economics of tribal resistance.