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.



NNI Research Staff to Present at NCAI Mid Year Conference

nni research group photo
(Left to right) Jennifer Schultz, Yadira Caballero, Rachel Starks, Stephanie Carroll Rainie

Concurrent Breakout Session
June 30, 2015
1:30 PM - 4:00 PM
Meeting Room 6


Jennifer Schultz, Stephanie Carroll Rainie (Ahtna Athabascan), and Rachel Starks (Zuni/Navajo) will present at NCAI mid year conference. They will present findings from the study, "Residence, Citizenship, and Connectedness for Young Adult American Indians" is part of the Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum session on "Connecting Across Distance & Difference: Tribal Citizenship in a New Era."

Using an online survey, the study sought preliminary insight into the following questions: How engaged do non-resident tribal citizens feel with their Native nations? How engaged would they like to be? How can positive connections and engagement between off-reservation tribal citizens and on-reservation communities and tribal government be facilitated?

The summary report is now available, access here> PDF

Research team at NICWA conference in Portland. (Left to Right) Addie Smith (NICWA), Mary Beth Jager (NNI), Rachel Starks (NNI)
(Left to right) Adrian (Addie) Smith, Mary Beth Jäger, Rachel Starks

Poster Session
June 30, 2015
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Rotunda Lobby/ Ballroom Concourse

Protecting Our Children Through Tribal Law: A Review of 100+ Tribal Child Welfare Codes
Rachel Rose Starks (Zuni/Navajo)
Mary Beth Jäger (Citizen Potawatomi)
Adrian T. Smith, National Indian Child Welfare Association
Poster presentation, access here> PDF

Reimagining Indigenous Health: Moving Beyond the Social Determinants of Health
Stephanie Carroll Rainie (Ahtna Athabascan)
Poster presentation, access here> PDF


Research team at NICWA conference in Portland. (Left to Right) Addie Smith (NICWA), Mary Beth Jager (NNI), Rachel Starks (NNI)

Exploring Self-Determination in Child Welfare Codes

In April, NNI's joint research project with the National Child Welfare Association (NICWA), which analyzes 107 tribal child welfare codes to better understand tribes' efforts to exercise self-determination over child welfare practices, received positive reviews and supportive feedback at the 33rd Annual NICWA conference.

Research Analyst Mary Beth Jäger (Citizen Potawatomi) and Senior Researcher Rachel Starks (Zuni/Navajo) joined NICWA Government Affairs Associate Addie Smith in Portland, OR to share interim findings from their research. The interactive breakout session, attended by more than 75 child welfare practitioners, focused on inclusion of culture in tribal child welfare law, tribal regulations on reporting child abuse, and the standards tribes use to establish the legal relationship between parents and children (for example, standards for foster care, custody, adoption, and the termination of parental rights). In this lively discussion, conference attendees expressed a desire to learn more-particularly about incorporating culture into child welfare practices. A tribal leader guide and a project findings publication is forthcoming.

New Journal Publications

iipj coverpage

NNI Faculty Associate Stephen Cornell's article, "Wolves Have a Constitution: Continuities in Indigenous Self-Government," appears in the January 2015 issue of the International Indigenous Policy Journal. In the article, Cornell asserts "(t)hat the political idea of constitutionalism is the idea that the process of governing is itself governed by a set of foundational laws or rules," and is an Indigenous tradition.

Cornell, Stephen (2015). "Wolves Have A Constitution: Continuities in Indigenous Self-Government." The International Indigenous Policy Journal. Volume 6, Issue 1.

American Indian Culture and Research Jounral cover page

"The Changing Landscape of Health Care Provision to American Indian Nations," an article by four NNI researchers--Stephanie Carroll Rainie (Ahtna Athabascan), Miriam Jorgensen, Stephen Cornell, and Jaime Arsenault (Mi'kmaq and French Canadian)--appears in the April 2015 issue of the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. The article describes the history of health care provision to federally recognized American Indian tribes and documents the sparse research literature on tribal management of health care services.

Stephanie Rainie, Miriam Jorgensen, Stephen Cornell, and Jaime Arsenault (2015). The Changing Landscape of Health Care Provision to American Indian Nations. American Indian Culture and Research Journal. Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 1-24.


Researchers Train State of South Australia Officials

In April, NNI Faculty Associate Stephen Cornell and NNI Research Director Miriam Jorgensen, travelled to Adelaide, South Australia, to assist in an executive education session for senior executives of the government of South Australia. Led by Flinders University Professor Daryle Rigney (Ngarrindjeri), who is also a lecturer in NNI's Indigenous Governance Program, Cornell, and Jorgensen are part of a team designing professional development tools both for state officials and Aboriginal community members about the opportunities for Indigenous nation building offered by the state's new regional authorities policy.

"What we're talking about is Aboriginal nations building their governance, and building their governments, in order that they're able to run their affairs and negotiate with the State on a nation-to-nation basis."
--Professor Daryle Rigney


Native Leaders Share Their Experience

NNI staff is creating new video resources for the Indigenous Governance Database and the forthcoming Constitutions Resource Center website.

Gathering Data for Tribal Priorities

briggs photos

Verónica Hirsch interviewed Eileen Briggs (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), Executive Director of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Ventures project in Eagle Butte, SD. Eileen also serves on NNI's International Advisory Council. Eileen discussed how the Tribal Ventures project supports the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe's nation rebuilding and poverty reduction efforts that the citizenry identified and prioritized. As part of its citizen engagement focus, Tribal Ventures conducted a survey to provide baseline data for the 2006-2016 Tribal Ventures Poverty Reduction Plan. The tribe designed the plan to promote community accountability in reducing poverty on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Eileen emphasized how citizen-defined research supports Indigenous data sovereignty and practically applies nation-building concepts to foster sustainable economic development.
Nation Building at the Ktunaxa Nation
pierre photo Sophie Pierre (Kootenay, Ktunaxa Nation), retired Chief Chief Commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission and current Co-Chair of NNI's International Advisory Council, discussed Ktunaxa Nation governance successes and challenges in an interview with Verónica Hirsch. Sophie explained how Ktunaxa core cultural values inform Ktunaxa practical governance embodied by the Four Pillars framework (traditional knowledge and language; land and resources; economic investment; and social sector). She stressed how Ktunaxa-defined citizenship criteria draw upon traditional concepts of community connection, engagement, responsibility, and reciprocity to support governance efficacy at the community and Ktunaxa Nation Council levels.
phillips photo Gwen Phillips, Governance Transition Director for the Ktunaxa Nation, described the Ktunaxa Nation's Indigenous governance-informed transformation from a network of "bands" to a culturally-grounded nation of citizen communities engaged in language revitalization, governance re-education, and treaty negotiation. Gwen also serves on the Board of Directors for the First Nations Information Governance Centre and has been a tireless advocate of the tripartite BC First Nations' Data Governance Initiative (BCFNDGI) that aims to improve performance measurement, reduce First Nations' reporting burdens, and promote access to First Nations' owned data that supports community well-being.
All three interviews will be featured on NNI's Indigenous Governance Database in the near future. In the meantime, Native leaders, community members, scholars (and others) can access Native nation rebuilding resources-video, text, audio--by creating a FREE account. Join today!

Governance in Action with Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate

In partnership with the Bush Foundation, NNI Executive Director Joan Timeche (Hopi) and NNI Senior Policy Associate Jonathan Taylor facilitated a one-day "house call" session for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (SWO) of the Lake Traverse Reservation in Agency Village, SD, on April 30, 2015. Eleven participants, including newly elected SWO council members and department staff, identified their nation-building priorities for strengthening the tribe's government, promoting its operational stability, and ultimately creating the legacy they wish to leave for their grandchildren.


nni staff

Recognizing NNI Staff Accomplishments

NNI congratulates Graduate Research Assistant Aurora Trujillo (Taos Pueblo) and Undergraduate Assistant Andrew Martinez (Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community) for their recent accomplishments. Aurora received her Master's Degree in Public Health this spring from the University of Arizona's Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. The University of Arizona's Native American Student Affairs office honored Andrew with the "Outstanding Undergraduate" award for his commitment to Indigenous scholarship and community engagement. Andrew is majoring in Business Management with a double minor in American Indian Studies, and Government and Public Policy.

NNI promoted Stephanie Carroll Rainie (Ahtna Athabascan) to Associate Director for NNI and Verónica Hirsch (Chiricahua Apache) to Coordinator of Digital Resources. In addition to her research work, Stephanie co-manages NNI with Joan Timeche (Executive Director) and Miriam Jorgensen (Research Director) and brings valuable administrative systems knowledge to NNI leadership. Verónica oversees NNI's Rebuilding Native Nations distance learning course series and works to increase NNI's digital scope and presence via the Indigenous Governance Database.

NNI appointed Ryan Seelau as Manager for the Indigenous Governance Program and Manon (Misko) Beaudrie (Anishinabe, Michigan and Manitoba) as a Research Analyst. Ryan manages three Indigenous Governance educational programs (the Continuing Education Certificate, Graduate Certificate, and Masters of Professional Studies) housed at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and coordinates their connection to the Rebuilding Native Nations distance learning course series. Ryan brings Indigenous legal expertise, experience with Indigenous nation building in South America, and years of NNI institutional knowledge (from various previous staff and student roles) to his position. Misko serves primarily as a case writer and researcher, skills that she honed through extensive experience working with NNI's sister organization, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and its Honoring Nations program.


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 in the News >

more WHAT'S NEW at NNI >


Native Nations Institute