As the city of Phoenix expands toward the northern border of the Gila River Indian Community’s 374,000-acre reservation, the tribe’s economy is becoming increasingly threatened by the city’s consumption of air resources. Beginning in 1997, the Gila River Department of Environmental Quality began to create air quality standards and a monitoring and enforcement regime that ultimately won the Community exclusion from Maricopa County’s ozone non-attainment area. The Community is the first tribe in the country to have a Tribal Air Quality Management Plan approved for federal enforcement and treatment-as-a-state status from the EPA under the Clean Air Act.
In 1958 the California Rancheria Act terminated many California tribes and substantially diminished tribally held trust lands. Re-recognition processes in the 1980s restored many tribes’ political status but little of their land: 8.5 million acres of former Indian land remain alienated. California-based tribes decided to launch a proactive effort to overcome a 20-year fee-to-trust deadlock, and the California Fee-to-Trust Consortium was born. Since its inception, the Consortium has helped to move 15,274 acres into trust status. The average processing time has decreased from ten years to one. The return of lands has brought families back together; provided a foundation upon which to build the structures of governance, commerce, and cultural importance; and given citizens a place to put down roots and grow.
In 2007, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation adopted a new constitution which adopted a three-branch system of government, eliminated Secretarial Elections, and created the Citizen Potawatomi legislature. This 16-member legislative body is deliberately balanced, with eight Oklahoma members elected at large by Oklahoma residents and one member each from the eight legislative districts that comprise the rest of the United States, each representing a roughly equal number of Citizen Potawatomi citizens. The legislature meets virtually and all meetings are streamed and archived on the internet.
The Coast Salish Gathering provides an environmental policy platform for the tribal and First Nations governments, state and provincial governments, and the US and Canadian federal governments—all of which have interests in the Salish Sea region—to discuss and determine effective environmental strategies and practices. Most important for the Coast Salish people, however, it amplifies their voice on the environmental issues that matter most to them: access to toxin-free traditional foods, adequate water quality and quantity, and collective climate change policies.
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have become one of the largest employers in Eastern Oregon, and along with economic success came the return of tribal citizens. Nonetheless, a lack of transportation options prevented tribal citizens from taking advantage of local employment opportunities. In 2001, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Public Transit was started to address the need for public transportation. The comprehensive Confederated Tribes Public Transit program includes both a free bus and a taxi voucher service, encompassing a large service area within and beyond the reservation boundaries, which is interconnected with other non-tribal regional systems. Remarkably, the transit system has helped alleviate poverty, promoted stronger inter-governmental relations, and facilitated community engagement.
In 2006, Leech Lake set aside generations of racial tension that existed between the tribe and its non-Native neighbors in order to focus on community healing. As a result, a DWI Wellness Court was formed by the Leech Lake Tribal Court and Minnesota’s Ninth Judicial District’s Cass County District Court to adjudicate and rehabilitate substance abusers. One year later, Leech Lake established a second Wellness Court in collaboration Itasca County District Court. The Wellness Courts operate under a joint powers agreement and serve both Native and non-Native people. They function as multi-agency advocacy and enforcement. Since its inception, the Joint Tribal-State Jurisdiction has grown in capacity, outreach, impact, and success and stands as an outstanding example of expanded self-governance.
Newtok is a traditional Yup'ik village located on the Ninglick River in far-western Alaska. Newtok is now in the process of relocating nine miles south to Nelson Island, the site of the community’s traditional summer camp. Newtok itself has taken the lead in working with dozens of state and federal agencies to piece together its relocation efforts. In 2006, the Newtok Planning Group formed as a centralized, community-specific strategy to relocate the village. The Newtok Planning Group is a one-of-a-kind partnership between Newtok, state and federal government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. As a result, these groups now gather together in the same room to strategize Newtok’s relocation.
Today, the leaders of the Oneida Nation Trust Advocacy Department are leaders in the Socially Responsible Investing (or SRI) movement. Oneida is now positioned as an activist and is having a positive impact of environmental concerns, human rights, corporate culture, Indigenous issues, and the entire SRI community—all the while earning a market return on its portfolio. To expand their impact, SRI leaders at Oneida have provided education and training to committed Oneida citizens who are, with newly raised awareness, more actively managing their own investments. To expand the impact of SRI across Indian Country, the Oneida developed a guidebook focused on ways other tribes can integrate socially responsible investing in their portfolios.
Project Pueblo is a top-to-bottom engagement in the nation-building process. From 2006-2010, the Tribe has developed and undertaken a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, a new set of economic and business policies, new business and commercial laws and regulations, and a radically new mindset geared toward long-term planning, strategic thinking, and wide-ranging evaluation. In sum, Project Pueblo has reinvigorated the methods by which governance and business is conducted at Ysleta del Sur.