Native Nation Building TV: "Bonus Segment on Native Nation Building"

Native Nations Institute

Joan Timeche, Stephen Cornell and Ian Record with the Native Nations Institute at The University of Arizona discuss the "Native Nation Building" television and radio series and the research findings at heart of the series in a televised interview in January 2007.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of Fox Channel 11 in Tucson, Arizona.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Native Nations Institute. "Bonus Segment on Native Nation Building" (Bonus Segment). Native Nation Building television/radio series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy and the UA Channel, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2007. Television program. 

Announcer: "This is Fox 11 Forum, a look at issues of concern to Tucson and Nogales, with your host Bob Lee."

Bob Lee: "Good morning. I hope you're having a nice weekend. This morning, we'll be discussing a new broadcast series that looks at some of the challenging questions facing American Indian, Alaska Native and Canadian First Nation governments. Each program in the series looks at successful nation-building efforts and at the issues that had to be overcome. We'll learn more on this in a minute. Stay with us, we'll be right back."

Bob Lee: "Welcome back. Native Nation Building is the name of a new ten-part radio and TV series that's now being seen and heard across the U.S. and in Canada. It addresses a number of issues currently being addressed by contemporary Native Nations, and we're going to talk about that because it originates right here in Tucson. Let me introduce my guests. Dr. Ian Record is Curriculum Development Manager with the Native Nations Institute at the U of A. Dr. Joan Timeche is Assistant Director of the Native Nations Institute, and Dr. Stephen Cornell is Director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy -- a co-founder of NNI, a U of A professor, and generally involved in a number of things. Before we talk about this really interesting series of programs, let's talk a little bit about NNI and remind people what that's all about. What is the Native Nations Institute? What led to its founding?"

Stephen Cornell: "I'll take a shot at that. The Native Nations Institute is a research and outreach unit within the University of Arizona that's designed to assist Indian nations in the U.S. and First Nations in Canada at dealing with governance and development issues. It's really an effort by the U of A to focus university resources, research results, practical lessons that we've learned about development and governance, focus those on Indigenous issues, provide a resource to Indigenous nations that are wrestling with governance challenges. It's now what, five years old -- 2001 -- and was founded by the University of Arizona and by the Morris K. Udall Foundation, which is a federal foundation located here in town."

Bob Lee: "I think it's important, too, that we note that this is not just focusing on local tribes, that as I mentioned in the beginning it's Alaska and Canadian, it's truly an international effort that's being spearheaded here. Is an overall goal of what the Institute is all about, is there something five years from now you'd like to have seen achieved?"

Stephen Cornell: "Well, I think if we looked five years down the road, we would find Indian nations in the U.S. and in Canada first of all in charge of their own affairs, making decisions for themselves about their lands, about how they organize their governments, about civil affairs, about their relations with other governments -- states and the United States government. We'd find those nations building economies that support their people, reducing the kind of dependence that has plagued many Indigenous nations for years. We'd find those nations fully engaged with other communities across the United States, yet finding ways to maintain and sustain their own ways of life and their own cultures. We don't see the Native Nations Institute as the sort of key to all of that, but simply as one of an array of organizations and resources working closely with tribes to try to enable that, to help make that happen."

Bob Lee: "How much sovereignty is there now? It sounds like there isn't a lot."

Joan Timeche: "There actually is quite a bit of...tribes have been exercising their sovereignty more recently with the passage of a number of public laws that allowed the tribes to take over more of the responsibilities that the federal government had been providing on their behalf, and increasingly we're finding tribes who are beginning to make their own decisions for their own future and they're testing, they're questioning and they're exercising."

Bob Lee: "Is it conceivable that one day instead of as we drive down the freeway and a sign says, 'Entering the Pascua Yaqui Reservation,' we might see the term 'reservation' disappear and this would be...we would be entering in effect another country or another political entity entirely?"

Joan Timeche: "I would imagine so. That would be fantastic if we could see that, and I think essentially that is already occurring today. I come from the Hopi Reservation and Hopi Nation, and so when you go out there, we don't have so much the signs that you might see in the metro reservation environment and you clearly are going into another country when you go out onto the Navajo Reservation, onto the Hopi Reservation, and I think the terminology, that 'reservation' may stay because it's written in a lot of government language, documents."

Stephen Cornell: "Even today we see -- there are places where you go -- I remember driving in Oklahoma just a year or two ago and passing a sign saying, 'Entering the Cherokee Nation.' These are really nations within a nation and they certainly view themselves as nations, they enjoy a very substantial degree of sovereignty as Joan said, and I think we're likely to see them increasingly using that sovereignty to shape their lands and their peoples in the way that they desire. And the idea of driving onto the Tohono O'odham Nation, for example, is likely I think to become more and more part of the language."

Bob Lee: "Let's talk about this broadcast series that is -- I believe, as I look at some of the topics of the individual shows -- calling attention to some of the goals and objectives of the NNI [Native Nations Institute] and helping acquaint the general public as to some of the issues as well as, it seems like, there's sort of a rallying effort underway here too among the Nations themselves. How did the series come to be?"

Ian Record: "The series really began with the realization that...a lot of what NNI does through its research efforts is collect stories, collect stories about what Native Nations are doing, what's working in Indian Country, and why it's working. And lots of times on reservations, Native communities, they get so wrapped up in their own situation, their own circumstances, the challenges that they face, that it's hard for them to bridge the gap to other Native Nations and learn what they're doing. So that's really what the series is all about is really bringing those stories, connecting those tribes and really flattening that learning curve about nation building."

Bob Lee: "When you set upon putting the series together, now does it rely on the resources within our local nations or does it encompass Canada, Alaska, etc.?"

Ian Record: "We have a number of guests from Native nations in Arizona. We also have guests from Native nations throughout the United States and some from Canada, and what you really see by watching the series is that the nation-building messages are really universal. The specific circumstances, the specific challenges that a particular Native Nation might face may be different from that of another, but at the same time the key components necessary for nation building -- there's five of them that NNI commonly cites and those are practical sovereignty or genuine self rule, effective governing institutions, cultural match -- and what we mean by cultural match is a match between a given nation's governing institutions and the way that the people in that community believe that authority should be organized and exercised. The fourth is strategic orientation -- thinking and planning long term -- and then the fifth is finally leadership. And we find that the messages that we see through this nation-building research are universal to all nations."

Stephen Cornell: "Bob, I might just add, Ian mentioned that it's a pretty diverse group of guests and it ranges in this series from Robert Yazzie, who's the retired Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court; Rob Williams, a professor of law here at the University of Arizona; so both of those are Arizona sources. But it also includes people like Sophie Pierre, who's the Chief of a First Nation in British Columbia; Elsie Meeks, who has been involved for a long time in economic development efforts on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota; a number of people drawn from nations across the United States. So it's a's a national perspective and an international perspective when you bring in some of the Canadian First Nations that are dealing with very similar issues to what Indian nations here are dealing with."

Bob Lee: "What are some of those issues? We'll talk more about that in just a minute. Stay with us, we'll be right back."

[Music] [On screen: Between the U.S. and Canada, there are more than 1,100 Native-American tribes. Native peoples around the world are working to invent new development strategies and governance tools that match their unique needs and contribute to maintaining their cultures.] 


Bob Lee: "Native Nation Building is the name of a new broadcast series that debuted here in Tucson this past weekend. Where and how can people see or hear what we're discussing on the program this morning?"

Ian Record: "Well, the television version of this series is currently running on the U of A Channel, which is Channel 19 on Cox and Channel 76 on Comcast. It airs Friday evenings at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m., and it will be running through March 26th. People who are interested in listening to the Native Nation Building series on radio, it's going to be distributed nationally by the AIROS Native Radio Network, and so if you're interested in getting that series here locally, it's the same old song and dance -- you've got to contact your local public radio station and let them know you want to hear the series."

Bob Lee: "And the tribal radio stations are also carrying it. Unfortunately, the stations here in southern Arizona are not carrying it. I'm going to show a website address in a little bit and I did discover that there's going to be a webcast available also."

Ian Record: "Yeah, you can webcast. You can podcast. You can listen to it online both live and whenever you wish."

Bob Lee: "So there is a way to get around the fact that the stations down here are not carrying it."

Ian Record: "We're hoping they'll come around, but not yet."

Bob Lee: "Well, they're independent. Let's talk about some of the subjects that are addressed on the program. I was particularly drawn to the sixth program, which looks specifically at tribal economic development and tribal entrepreneurship, and these are issues that everybody's interested in. Let's talk about that specifically. What are some of the aspects of economic development?"

Joan Timeche: "Aspects in general're going to find that on most reservations, the tribal governments are the ones that own the enterprises. They are the ones that have the resources -- monetary, human, all of the additional resources -- that might be needed to get it off the ground. They have the know-how, they've had the perseverance, and so on. But increasingly what we're seeing is more citizens who are beginning to...who have expressed an interest in owning and developing their own businesses, and we often see tribes have a two-pronged approach to development. One where the tribes own the enterprises that usually require large intensive capital or maybe it's natural resource-based or something like that, but we're also seeing more of an approach moving towards helping their own tribal citizens start their own businesses. But it requires a lot of regulatory development that has to be done, creating that environment, so it's conducive for a member and they don't have to go through hundreds of steps to be able to get perhaps the land to lease to start the business. So we're seeing changes, very positive changes moving towards those directions."

Bob Lee: "So there's a regulatory aspect that has to be perhaps addressed and loosened up a little bit?"

Joan Timeche: "Yes, yes. In some cases, well, on all reservations they have the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] regulations for leasing of land have to be followed. They're very cumbersome. If you have traditional land holdings, like on Hopi and Navajo, the Tohono O'odham Nation, the land is controlled at the local level, so then you have to get permission from clans to districts to chapters to villages before you can even approach the formal tribal government. So the process can be very cumbersome, and then once you get to the tribal approval, then you've got to go back to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to get the final say-so on all of the lease agreements, so it can be very cumbersome."

Bob Lee: "Something I had mentioned earlier, and I guess it comes back to what we were saying, when you talk about the BIA, one of the things that probably would be a long-range goal would be to somehow not have to deal with the BIA and have true sovereignty."

Joan Timeche: "Yes, that would be good, and I think that there are some tribes who are trying to work that out in their leasing regulations and in some of the codes that they have adopted where they've been able to set up a process that still meets the needs that the Bureau of Indian Affairs' [has] in terms of its own documentation and its own processes, if they can accept and authorize, delegate in a sense to the tribes the authority to be able to sign off on those processes."

Bob Lee: "You wanted to say something and maybe it was what I was going to follow up on."

Stephen Cornell: "Well, I don't know. I was just going to add that I think one of the things that the session that you're talking about, that interview, does is discuss what tribal governments themselves can do to support citizen entrepreneurs, because the very complexity of the regulation that Joan has just described, the effect of that is often to take people who've got ideas and get up and go and they say to themselves, 'Gee, it's going to be too complicated to start a business here, I'll move to Tucson or Phoenix or L.A. and start it there.' And increasingly, we're seeing tribal governments saying, 'Okay, what steps do we need to take to keep our own citizens here, keep that talent here, keep that energy here and engage them in the economic development effort?' And we're seeing some very innovative work by some tribes that have really solved this problem. They've taken control of the regulatory environment and are creating an environment that encourages their citizens to stick around and invest at home. So there's some really interesting things happening out there, and a lot of that comes up in the interview."

Bob Lee: "So in a sense they're going through the same thing that many cities, Tucson included, are going through is how do we keep our talent here. Another question that came to mind, when we talk about the BIA, why don't they just...why does in a sense Uncle Sam want to keep his hand involved in this? Why not just walk away and let the tribal nations do their thing? It seems like there's a lot of talent and abilities to get that done without somebody hanging on there. 150 years ago I can understand that, but now..."

Stephen Cornell: "It's interesting, Bob. We've done some systematic and robust research over the last 20 years on some of these issues, and one of the things that comes out quite clearly is that as federal decision-makers relinquish that decision-making role and move into a resource role, tribal development tends to do better. When tribes are in the driver seat making decisions for themselves, development does better. So one of the...I think the core question here is how do you move the BIA or other external bodies out of decision-making into a resource or support role where they're needed and when you do that? Then Indian nations themselves begin to benefit from their own decisions, pay the price of mistakes they make, they tend to begin to create the world that they want, which is what should be happening out there anyway."

Bob Lee: "Good government -- we'll talk about that in just a minute. Stay with us, we'll be right back."

[Music] [On screen: NNI works with Native nations and organizations on strategic and organizational issues ranging from constitutionl reform to government design, intergovernmental relations, and economic and community development. / Native nations that have been willing and able to assert their self-governing power have significantly increased their chances of sustainable economic development.]

Bob Lee: "Welcome back. We're talking about Native Nation Building, a new 10-part radio and TV series that's now being seen and heard across North America actually and it originates right here in Tucson. We've got about six minutes left. I want to try to touch on two more issues that are a part of this radio and TV series. We're talking about developing a new sort of tribal government, nation government. What are some of the keys to making that happen and that is the topic of one of the programs."

Stephen Cornell: "A lot of governments in Indian Country were not really developed by Native people. A lot of them have their roots in federal legislation in the 1930s, a lot of them are modeled on mainstream U.S. organizations, they don't represent in many cases the ways Indigenous people would like to govern themselves. One of the most striking developments of the last 25 years or so in Indian Country has been an effort by a lot of Indian nations to reclaim the right to design governments that fit their ideas, their cultures, and in practical terms this is leading to a lot of constitutional reform. One of the interviews in this series focuses on tribal constitutions and on the efforts the tribes are making to rethink the constitutions they currently are working with. We think of it as sort of remaking the tools of governance, and a lot of tribes are engaged in doing that, trying to figure out, 'What is going to work in our situation, what will the people being governed believe in?' You've got to have governing institutions that those being governed think, 'Yeah, these are good, we believe in these, these are our institutions, not somebody else's imported.' So a lot of that is happening in Indian Country and a good chunk of the program is about that."

Bob Lee: "This all leads toward what is essentially the final episode in this first series, and there may be more I suppose, and that has to do with looking, moving toward nation building and very quickly explain again what we mean by nation building."

Stephen Cornell: "I think you can think of nation building as putting in place the foundational institutions and practices that can support long-term development, not just economic development, but development of the kinds of quality of life that Indigenous nations themselves want. It's trying to put the foundation in place that tribes can build on according to their own designs over the next 100 years, whatever it might be, whatever their thinking is about their long-term vision. So it's really about, 'What kinds of tools do we need to build the future we want? Have we got the right institutions in place? Have we got the right decision-making capabilities in place? Do we have the right relationships in place with other governments?' All of that is part of nation building, and that's what a lot of these nations are engaged in."

Bob Lee: "We should perhaps address very quickly, is there a commonality in terms of the Native nation culture from Hopi to Pascua Yaqui to Canadian Nations and so forth that would help facilitate this, or are there a lot of differences that also have to be overcome?"

Joan Timeche: "I think that you're going to find that every tribe is different from each other, they're all unique and although they may have, there may be bands that may be similarly, familially related or come from the same region or whatever, have the same barriers to overcome, their languages are different, their cultures are different, and therefore their governments are going to be different from each other. But there are some commonalities. Take New Mexico, there are 19 Pueblos there, and almost all of them operate on a theocracy, where it's a traditional form of government where their cacique, their chief comes in and he does an appointment of their elected leadership on an annual basis..."

Bob Lee: "So one of the challenges, then, is that one size isn't going to fit all?"

Joan Timeche: "Yes. But there are common elements of governments that do apply across the board."

Bob Lee: "That would be helpful in seeing this to its fruition. Ian, what do you hope is going to come out of this? When the series is, the first ten episodes are said and done, what do you hope for?"

Ian Record: "Well, we do view this as an ambitious series, but at the same time we view this as a modest starting point. We view this as a way to start a dialogue between nations, Native nations and other individuals, non-Native individuals, people in positions where they make decisions that affect Native communities -- to educate them as well, to really get a dialogue going about what's really going on, what are some of the phenomenal things that Native nations are doing, and really educating everyone about those efforts."

Bob Lee: "Terrific series from what I've seen and heard about it, and hopefully it won't end here. Thank you very much for being with us this morning to talk about this. And you can log onto American Indian Radio on Satellite,, and you can learn more about the success that many Native nations are having in restoring economic health, developing effective governments, shaping their own futures, and that website will give you lots of links, one of which can take you to the live streaming broadcast as well as archives of the programs that we talked about here today. Again it's,, and follow the links there and you can get a lot of information. Next week, we will be discussing prostate health here on this program. Until then, for Fox 11 I'm Bob Lee. Have a safe week ahead, we'll see you again next week."

Related Resources


Guests Jaime Pinkham and Sarah Hicks focus on Native nations’ efforts to enhance their relationships with other governments as a way to advance their nation-building objectives. It details how some Native nations are forging mutually beneficial intergovernmental agreements, and chronicles the many…


Guests Eddie Brown and Karen Diver discuss tribal program and service delivery across Indian Country. They examine the unproductive ways services and programs have been administered in many Native communities in the past, and the innovative mechanisms and approaches some Native nations are…


Guests Manley Begay and Stephen Cornell present the key research findings of the Native Nations Institute and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. They explain the five keys to successful community and economic development for Native nations (sovereignty or practical self-…