Tribal leaders go to school

  Freshmen congressmen go to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government to learn the ropes. Now, tribal leaders have a comparable resource.

This winter, the University of Arizona and the Morris K. Udall Foundation, in conjunction with the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, established what could become the premier training center for Indian leaders - the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy. The NNI will provide practical, specialized instruction in real-world challenges like negotiating gaming pacts with state governments, running reservation health agencies, setting up environmental departments and undertaking constitutional reform.

"Senior tribal leaders are basically running multimillion-dollar organizations and building nations, just like Nelson Mandela was (in South Africa), so we'll provide the skills-building it requires," says Manley Begay, a Navajo scholar and the Native Nations Institute's director.

Stephen Cornell, director of the Udall Center, where the NNI is housed, says the training courses will avoid one-size-fits-all "White" solutions: "Our offerings grow out of research we've done that suggests the most effective governing institutions resonate with individual tribes' traditional cultures. Really, it comes down to designing societies that work."

The NNI, with support from the Ford Foundation, now offers one- and two-day executive sessions. Eventually, Cornell and Begay plan to develop a full master's degree program in tribal governance.

For more information, call the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at 520/884-4393, or visit it on the Web at

Copyright © 2001 HCN and Mark Muro

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