Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development Co-Director Joseph P. Kalt provides a definition of 'constitutions' in the context of nation building.
Kalt, Joseph P. "Constitutions: Critical Components of Native Nation Building." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy. University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2012. Lecture.
â€œOne of the points â€“ Iâ€™ll say it a couple of times Iâ€™m sure -- this word â€˜constitutionâ€™ is kind of a quintessential sort of western European idea. I learned about it in high school here in Tucson, Arizona in high school civics. I learned all about the constitution. Right? But many nations in the world donâ€™t even have written constitutions, and yet they have constitutions: fundamental systems of organizing ourselves, or any community, for making those community decisions that allow us hopefully to move toward shared goals. And so Iâ€™m going to talk about constitutions in a quite broad way. Iâ€™m not talking about it just in the form of my high school civics textbook, but rather much more broadly about the fundamental systems of governing that people adopt. I was teaching last week a session very much like this in El Paso with the Tigua tribe in El Paso, Texas -- Ysleta del Sur [Pueblo]. And theyâ€™re one of the traditional Pueblos. They donâ€™t have a written constitution. And I posed the question to them, â€˜Do you have a constitution?â€™ And this is all the tribal council and city managers, and they got in a big argument. â€˜No, we don't have a constitution!â€™ â€˜Yes, we do have a constitution!â€™ And what it was it about, well they eventually said, â€˜We do have a constitution. We have a very fundamental law in our nation about how we're going to run things. Weâ€™ve never had to write it down because everybody knows it. But we know how we select people who are going to lead.â€™ And many nations in the world donâ€™t have written constitutions. Very successful places. Israel doesn't have a written constitution. Great Britain doesnâ€™t have a written constitution. Navajo Nation doesnâ€™t have a written constitution. Fundamental laws are in place, but nothing you would hold up as the constitution. So when Iâ€™m talking constitutions today, I want you to really recognize weâ€™re talking about -- whether written down, whether embedded in deep traditional culture, whether sitting on somebodyâ€™s computer, or just in ceremony -- what weâ€™re talking about is the fundamental systems of organizing and governing a self-determined community.â€