Native Nations Institute Native Nations Institute
University of arizona | Udall Center logos
spacer image
NNI logo NNI photography
  home NNI what's new NNI contacts NNI links NNI support NNI
what we do NNI resources NNI who we are NNI
NNI logo-back to home University of Arizona Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy


Indigenous Governance Database




The Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy (NNI), housed at The University of Arizona's Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, serves as a self-determination, governance, and development resource for Indigenous nations in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere.

NNI was founded in 2001 by the Morris K. Udall Foundation (now Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation) and The University of Arizona.



IAC Spring 2015 panel discussion with IAC members and NNI staff

Spring 2015 International Advisory Council Meeting

The NNI International Advisory Council (IAC) convened its semiannual meeting in Tucson, AZ, on April 10-11, 2015, at the tribally owned Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel. Composed of elected leaders, scholars, administrators, and nonprofit and nongovernmental organization executives, the IAC provides counsel and advice to NNI's programs. The meeting included a visit to the Tohono O'odham Nation, where Tecolote (Kuk) Community Representative Kendall Jose of the Chukut Kuk District provided a cultural history of the Nation and an overview of the district. Participating IAC members witnessed government in action by visiting the district's monthly meeting. District Chairman Verlon Jose accompanied the IAC to the district's San Miguel Gate located at the U.S./ Mexico border and shared his experience with the complex issues of tribal sovereignty, safety, cultural preservation, and federal-tribal relationships associated with the international border.

IAC Spring 2015 group photo


Photo of saguaro cactus

NNI Collaborates on Indigenous Data Governance

The British Columbia First Nations Data Governance Initiative (BCFNDGI) hosted a First Nation Demonstration Sites gathering on March 26-27, 2015, at the Musqueam Cultural Center in Vancouver, BC. First Nations, provincial, and federal partners, discussed the First Nations' data governance framework, data governance projects in Canada, initial indicators, and ways to align the work with BC First Nations' transformational health and wellness strategies and community plans. The BCFNDGI First Nations' champion Gwen Phillips invited NNI Tribal Health Program Manager Stephanie Carroll Rainie to attend and observe the meeting.

This collaboration resulted in an Indigenous panel at the 3rd International Open Data Governance Conference on May 28-29, 2015 in Ottawa, ON, where Stephanie along with Gwen Phillips, Eileen Briggs (NNI IAC member and Cheyenne River Tribal Ventures Executive Director), and Desi Rodriguez Lonebear (a member of the U.S. Census Bureau National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations) will dialogue on the topic "Indigenous Data and Open Governments." Sector and open data experts, senior government officials, industry leaders, and civil society champions from the around the world will exchange ideas and work together to enable the Indigenous data revolution.


Photo of NNI Tribal Health Program Manager, Stephanie Carroll Rainie.

Indigenous Health

The Future of Tribal Public Health

The Tribal Public Health Feasibility Project convened the National Tribal Leaders Forum 2015 on March 11-12, 2015, in Phoenix, AZ. Tribal leaders, public health and legal professionals, and state and federal representatives explored ways that a Tribal Public Health Institute could strengthen and build the capacity of the tribal public health system-the network of tribes, tribal organizations, and other organizations whose primary intent is to protect and promote health in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. At the event, Stephanie Carroll Rainie connected with others thinking about opportunities to enhance governance as tribes build and strengthen their public health systems.

First Nations Health Authority

In March 2015, Stephanie Carroll Rainie met with staff from the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) in Vancouver, BC, to learn more about FNHA's efforts in the province, including the programs, services, and responsibilities formerly managed by Health Canada's First Nations Inuit Health Branch-Pacific Region. The First Nations in British Columbia are moving toward a model of development and wellness that is self governing, community-driven, nation-based, and encompasses broad, community-level indicators of health and well-being. The meetings enabled the sharing of experiences, connections, and possibilities for collaboration.


Group photo of NNI's Native Nation Rebuilders at Spearfish Canyon Lodge in Lead, SD.

(Photograph courtesy of John Fetzer, Bush Foundation Native Nations Program Manager)

Spring 2015 Native Nation Rebuilders Meeting

The Bush Foundation and NNI's Native Nation Rebuilders Cohort 6 gathered on March 25-26, 2015, at the Spearfish Canyon Lodge in Lead, SD. Twenty-eight "Rebuilders" completed exercises to identify their unique strengths to develop and implement Native nation building-focused action plans for their respective communities. Rebuilders assessed the readiness of their community to "rebuild" their nation through a "deep dive" case study of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN)'s successful rebuilding of their nation through constitutional reform efforts in 2007. The case study was led by Miriam Jorgensen, NNI Research Director, and Joan Timeche, NNI Executive Director. A pre-recorded presentation by Vice Chairman Linda Capps (CPN) and in-person presentation by Chairman John "Rocky" Barrett (CPN) concluded the session.

Information on the history of the Native Nation Rebuilders Program and on participant eligibility can be found here. To learn more about Citizen Potawatomi Nation's story, visit the Indigenous Governance Database.


NNI Researchers teach course for State Bar of Arizona Continuing Legal Education

Rachel Starks, NNI Senior Researcher and Jen McCormack, Adjunct Faculty at Tohono O’odham Community College, taught a continuing legal education (CLE) course on Native Nations and border policy for the State Bar of Arizona. They were invited to teach the 1-credit course on the complex issues faced by tribes whose land is bifurcated by international borders. The authors focused on the US-Mexico border, and highlighted the actions that the Tohono O’odham Nation and Pascua Yaqui Tribe have taken to assert their rights to cultural continuity through border crossing policies and protecting their fragile desert homelands. The course was offered live on October 29 in Tucson; a version of the presentation will be available for streaming from the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the UA College of Law.

Starks and McCormack, along with Stephen Cornell, authored the book Native Nations and U.S. Borders: Challenges to Indigenous, Culture, Citizenship, and Security. It provides an overview of the historical and contemporary effects of international border policy on the Indigenous nations of the United States and reviews some of the strategies Indigenous Nations use to respond to the border-related challenges they now face. This book serves as an important resource for Indigenous leaders, students, faculty, government agencies, and policy makers, and those who are interested in tribal, local, state, and federal government.

Native Nations and U.S. Borders: Challenges to Indigenous, Culture, Citizenship, and Security

“Too short for a textbook, too long, and detailed purely for promotion, the publication – like its authors – stands at the crossroads of scholarship and policymaking.”

- Andrew Bard Epstein, An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples (2013. 9(4): 373).

Purchase the book >

Bush Foundation, in partnership with the Native Nations Institute, convened in Walker, Minnesota for the fourth session with Cohort Five of the Native Nations Rebuilders Program

Native Nations Institute Researchers Featured Documentary and New Book

The Banff Centre’s (TBC) Aboriginal Leadership and Management Program has completed a multi-year project on Indigenous leadership and economic development in Alberta, and from it, produced a new book, Restorying Indigenous Leadership: Wise Practices in Community Development. The book includes a summary of “Forwarding First Nation Goals through Enterprise Ownership: The Mikisew Group Of Companies,” a case story by NNI researchers Miriam Jorgensen and Rachel Starks. The case explores the decisions and practices that have made the Mikisew Group a successful enterprise, one that promotes and complements the self-sufficiency and self-determination of the Mikisew Cree First Nation. Also in the book is a chapter by Jorgensen, “Four Contemporary Tensions in Indigenous Nation Building: Challenges for Leadership.” The book is available on and

TBC’s documentary video, The Best Practices in Rural Development Project, provides highlights from all four of the project’s case stories (Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, Métis Crossing, Mikisew Group of Companies, and Alberta Indian Investment Corporation). The video shows how Indigenous leaders at the helm of these wise practice examples engaged community members, developed sustainable companies, and applied core knowledge’s to benefit their communities. Rachel Starks speaks in the documentary about the Mikisew Group’s innovations in economic and social development and the way the Mikisew Cree First Nation is working to mitigate environmental harm and preserve Aboriginal rights in its traditional territory.

Bush Foundation, in partnership with the Native Nations Institute, convened in Walker, Minnesota for the fourth session with Cohort Five of the Native Nations Rebuilders Program

Native Nations Rebuilders Program
July 9-11, 2014
Walker, Minnesota

On July 9-11, the Bush Foundation, in partnership with the Native Nations Institute, convened in Walker, Minnesota for the fourth session with Cohort Five of the Native Nations Rebuilders Program. Rebuilders spent the time reconnecting with each other by sharing stories of what's happening in their nations; working on developing and finalizing nation-building action plans; and strengthening their skills in community mobilization. They returned to their nations re-energized and ready for the first five months of action plan implementation!
The Native Nation Rebuilders Program helps train community leaders in the region of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota by providing access to ideas and information, expanded networks, leadership training and other resources for nation building. NNI staff, Joan Timeche, attended the event.

For more information on the Native Nation Rebuilders Program, please contact Joan Timeche.


npr InterviewSchultz, Rainie, and Trujillo interviewed on AZPM

NNI senior researchers, Jennifer Schultz and Stephanie Carroll Rainie, and graduate research assistant, Aurora Trujillo, were interviewed by Arizona Public Media on a pilot study on young adult tribal citizens living off the reservation. The interview aired July 16, 2014.

“Over the past several decades, Native nations have made a lot of great strides culturally, economically, and in other respects. One of the questions we still don’t know a lot about is the experience of tribal citizens [living away from the reservation], especially young people, and it continues to be a population of great interest to tribes.” – Jenn Schultz on AZPM

Listen here >

Participate in the survey >

Native Girl

PILOT SURVEY: Off-Reservation Tribal Citizens

The Native Nations Institute research team is investigating young adult (ages 18-29) tribal citizens' experiences of living away from tribal homelands, whether they have moved away from the Native nation, or never lived on tribal lands in the first place.

Native Nations Institute research team is investigating young adult (ages 18-29) tribal citizens' experiences of living away from tribal homelands, whether they have moved away from the Native nation, or never lived on tribal lands in the first place.

A new project, "Residence, Connectedness, and Citizenship for Young Adult American Indians," seeks to explore the following questions: Are there meaningful ways for such young people to participate in the community as citizens, even while living "off-reservation"? How can tribe facilitate enduring connections and engagement with their young adult, off-reservation populations? Data collection occurred in July through September 2014, and results are forthcoming.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Lee Schultz or Stephanie Carroll Rainie.


NNI Research Staff to Present at NCAI Mid-year Event
June 8-10, 2014
Anchorage, Alaska

NNI researchers Stephanie Rainie and Jennifer Schultz will presented at the NCAI (National Congress of American Indians) mid-year meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Their talk, "The Strategic Power of Data: A Key Aspect of Sovereignty," was part of the Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum session on "Data Advocacy" on Sunday, June 8th.

Jennifer Schultz and Stephanie Rainie

Abstract: The Strategic Power of Data: A Key Aspect of Sovereignty here>

Presentation: The Strategic Power of Data: A Key Aspect of Sovereignty here>

Indian Country Today Article: The Strategic Power of Data: A Key Aspect of Sovereignty here >

Read more about NNI's policy analysis and research program here>


Sovereignty Book

New Book on Tribal Constitutions
Co-authored by NNI’s Miriam Jorgensen

Melissa L. Tatum, Miriam Jorgensen, Mary E. Guss, and Sarah Deer. (2014). Structuring Sovereignty: Constitutions of Native Nations. UCLA American Indian Studies Center Publications.  

Drafting and adopting a constitution is a collective journey of self-discovery and reflection for any nation, Indigenous or non-Indigenous. This book is a guide for communities engaged in the process of drafting a constitution and for students who are studying that process. It draws on research, firsthand experience with constitution writing and constitutional change, and numerous examples from actual governing documents to demonstrate the many ways that Indigenous nations can structure their sovereignty.

"incredibly timely . . . a most valuable companion . . . and a resource of the highest order."

Purchase from publisher's site> 


NNI Holds Forum on Community, Governance, and Culture
in the Health of Native Nations

April 14-15, 2014
Tucson, Arizona

In April, the Native Nations Institute convened a policy forum with 25 tribal leaders and managers, academics, and others to address "Community, Governance, and Culture in the Health of Native Nations."

The purpose of the event, initiated and led by Stephanie Rainie (NNI tribal health program manager and senior researcher), was to explore the social determinants of health that tribal communities can influence and to suggest steps tribes can take – outside the health care system – to improve community health. NNI's work on these topics is supported in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Udall Foundation.


Joan Timeche

NNI's Timeche Quoted in Washington Post
April 1, 2014

NNI executive director Joan Timeche was quoted in a recent Washington Post blog article by Mary Hudetz, “Why Native American women have been leaders in the fight against team mascots.”

Hudetz wrote: “Just as more women across the United States have stepped into leadership roles, it’s become clear, at least anecdotally, that during the past 30 years more Native American women also have assumed positions on tribal councils and taken on decision-making roles in their communities, said Joan Timeche, executive director at the Native Nations Institute at University of Arizona.”

Visit Washington Post site for full article>


NNI Researshers

Mikisew Case Study Released

"Forwarding First Nation Goals through Enterprise Ownership: The Mikisew Group Of Companies" by Miriam Jorgensen and Rachel Starks (both NNI researchers), was prepared for the Best Practices in Rural Alberta Project. The Project, developed and administered by the Indigenous Leadership and Management program at The Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, was made possible by contributions from The Banff Centre, Rural Alberta Development Fund, and Nexen, Inc.

Read case study here> PDF

Contact: Rachel Starks

Photo by Gavin Young at the Calgary Herald


NNI in the News >

more WHAT'S NEW at NNI >


Native Nations Institute