Friday, January 20, 2012

Native American Economics by Tammy L. Hooper

PHS 100A/Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific University

January 17, 2012

Native American Economics

This paper will attempt to express the effect of government agencies on Native American Economics and how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has had an impact on Native American economics as well as look at a study from the Joint Occasional Papers on Native Affairs by Stephen Cornell and Joseph P. Kalt.

The idea for this paper came from thinking about how small the Native American population is in the United States which is very impactful if one thinks about the fact that Native Americans were really the original inhabitants of this country we now call America. It could cause a person to wonder how Native Americans are doing economically today. To find jobs and opportunities many Native Americans have left the reservations and now live in cities or large towns (Your Letters: Unemployment, American Indians, 2012). Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, The U.S. Department of the Interior through The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Division of Economic Development invested $500 million to improve American Indian and Alaska Native communities (Economic Development, 2012).

Some of the projects that were funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act went to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon and the Klamath Tribe. One project granted Warm Springs was $100,338 in supplemental funding for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) to provide child care financial assistance to low-income working families and fund activities to improve the quality of childcare where one lead teacher position was retained (Tracking the Money). The Klamath Tribe received a grant of $423, 034 to upgrade the Klamath Tribal Health & Family Services building. This grant created five jobs and four temporary labor mover positions, full time for two weeks (Tracking the Money).

That being said the Division of Economic Development through the Bureau of Indian Affairs has programs to train Native entrepreneurs and Native business persons, teach tribal leaders how to build tribal business capacity and how to preserve tribal economic traditions and values (Division of Economic Development). In addition the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development (IEED) have five divisions to help Native communities gain self-sufficiency through developing their energy and mineral resources.

All these government programs sound very impressive and helpful but are they? In Stephen Cornell and Joseph P. Kalt’s publication, Reloading the Dice: Improving the Chances for Economic Development on American Indian Reservations, they state:

American Indians living on the nation’s nearly 300 reservations

are among the poorest people in the United States. On most

reservations, sustained economic development, while much discussed,

has yet to make a significant dent in a long history of poverty and

powerlessness. Despite the many federal programs and the large sums

of federal and philanthropic money that have been used over the years,

many Indian reservations continue to experience extremely high unemployment

rates; high dependency on welfare, government jobs, and

other transfer payments; discouraging social problems; and an almost

complete absence of sustainable, productive economic activity (Kalt, 2003)

In the summary of findings from the 2002 Census on the Survey of American Indian and Alaska Native-Owned Firms it is stated that “American Indians and Alaska Natives owned nearly 201,400 nonfarm U.S. businesses and generated $26.9 billion in business revenues (Survey of Business Owners (SBO), 2010). Asian owners from the same period owned 1.1 million businesses; Hispanics owned 1.6 million businesses, blacks owned 1.2 million businesses, Native Hawaiian’s and other Pacific Islanders owned 29,000 businesses and in 2007 whites owned 22.6 million businesses which is an increase of 13.6 percent since 2002 (Survey of Business Owners (SBO), 2010).

From this information gathered and personal interaction with many Native friends and associates that live both on and off reservations I would say a lot of work and assistance has been implemented to help Native Americans however there is so much more work to do and the overall positive effects of government agencies promoting that they are trying to help Native peoples has been miniscule. So much has been ripped away from the Indian peoples for so long and it just seems to add insult to injury that Native’s cannot have the same opportunities that non-Natives are afforded.


Division of Economic Development. (n.d.). Retrieved 17 17, January, from Indian Affairs Division of Economic Development:

Economic Development. (2012, January 17). Retrieved January 17, 2012, from U.S. Department of the Interior:

Kalt, S. C. (2003). Reloading the Dice: Improving the. Joint Occasional Papers , 1-65.

Survey of Business Owners (SBO). (2010, October 21). Retrieved January 17, 2012, from

Tracking the Money. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2012, from

Your Letters: Unemployment, American Indians. (2012, January 14). Retrieved January 17, 2012, from NPR:

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