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PED-501M: Native Americans in the 21st Century - Nation Building I

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Harvard Kennedy School

PED-501M: Native Americans in the 21st Century: Nation Building I

Description: This course examines the challenges that contemporary Native American tribes and nations face as they endeavor to rebuild their communities, strengthen their cultures, and support their citizens. The range of issues that Native leaders and policymakers confront is wide and encompass political sovereignty, economic development, constitutional reform, cultural promotion, land and water rights, religious freedom, health and social welfare, and education. Because the challenges are broad and comprehensive, the course emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of current Native nation building. Research finds that effective nation building must be compatible with individual societies’ cultures. Yet, American Indian tribes are culturally heterogeneous. Hence, there is not "one size" that fits all. Case studies and simulations derived from field research and experience are utilized to engage students in the multidimensional settings that confront Native societies. Scholars and leaders from the Harvard University Native America Program provide selected presentations. Prominent North American Native leaders address the class, giving their perspectives on the choices and constraints they confront in their nation building efforts.

Faculty Joseph Kalt

Source: At (accessed 20 January 2014)


Teaching Topics Addressed in this Course, Organized by Public Management Subject



Additional Course Description in Syllabus

Course Objectives

  • To gain a basic understanding of the status and role of Native nations.
  • To understand concepts and processes such as political sovereignty, social self-sufficiency, cultural self-determination, economic development, constitutional reform, land and water rights, civil rights, health and social welfare as they relate to Native nations.
  • To identify and develop strategies for addressing the challenges of self-determination in Indian Country (and other developing societies). 

Reference Materials

Readings in the course are primarily drawn from two books: The State of the Native Nations (SONN) and Rebuilding Native Nations (RNN). Additional readings will be distributed via email. SONN and RNN may be purchased at the Harvard Coop and online (e.g., at

Commentary by the Atlas editors: The syllabus lists topics that provide candidates for topic titles to be developed by the Atlas:

  • The Nation Building Renaissance
    • Sovereignty
    • Capable Institutions
    • Cultural Match
    • Leadership
  • The State of Native America
    • Population
    • Income
    • Health
    • Education
    • Language
    • Culture
    • Reservations
  • Legal and Policy Setting
    • U.S. Constitution and Treaties
    • Seminal Cases and Jurisdictional Boundaries
    • Sovereigns or Clubs?
    • Plenary Power of Congress
  • Challenges
    • Youth
    • Economic Development
    • Political Sovereignty
    • Cultural Self-Determination
  • The Role of History
    • Physical Realities of Location and Condition
    • Survival, Perpetuation and Reassertion
    • Identity through Shared History
    • Identity through Contemporary Representation of the Past
    • Situational Realities of Law, Intra- and Inter-Community Relations
  • Contemporary Native Nation Building
    • The Social Impetus
    • Cultural, Political, and Economic Necessities
    • The Inter-Community Debates
    • The Intra-Community Debates
  • Identity & Citizenship
    • Defining the "Self" in Self-Determination
    • Exo- and Endo-Stereotyping
    • Ends & Means/Values & Social Capital
    • Language, Ceremony, Religion
    • Continuity in Change: The Primacy of Self-Determination
  • Nation Building – The Impediments
    • External Constraints and Impositions
    •  Internal Disunion and Disorganization
    • Collective Action and the Critical Role of Dispute Resolution
  • Nation Building – The Goals
    • Strengthening Identity
    • Building Social Capital
    • Defending Sovereignty
    • Exercising Sovereignty
    • Providing for the Nation’s Well-Being
  • Nation Building – The Means
    • The Attitude
    • Political Self-Rule
    • Institutional Capacity
    • Community Capacity
    • Leadership
  • National Perpetuation and the Rule of Law
    • Contemporary Constitutionalism
    • Historical Foundations
    • Diversity of Forms
    • The Flathead-Cochiti Comparison
  • National Perpetuation and Cultural Match
    • Trust v. Norms/Social Capital v. Social Contract
    • Structure, Scope, Location & Source of Authority
    • The Apache-Lakota Comparison
    • Challenges of Amalgams and Change
  • Economic Development – Systems
    • Forms of Reservation Economies
    • Requirements of Alternative Systems
    • Cultural Match and Alternative Systems
  • Self-Determined Approaches to Public Services and Public Administration
    • Education
    • Health
    • Environment
    • Intergovernmental Relations
  • Leadership
    • Heterogeneous Cultural Foundations
    • Seizing the Future

Page created by: Ian Clark, 20 January 2014. The content presented on this page, except in the Commentary, is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases.




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