Development Economics for Indian Country

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This course offers students a wide-ranging introduction to many of the topics and issues central to economic development across Native American communities in the United States. The course is divided into 15 modules which cut across diverse academic fields, including history, sociology, economics, management, psychology, and anthropology. The course material, in the form of publicly available videos, includes lectures and presentations that cover both foundational issues in these fields as well as applied topics directly relevant to the kinds of business formation, entrepreneurship, and infrastructure development needed in Indian country. When it comes to foundational issues in these fields, students are introduced to ideas such as the psychology of scarcity, collective and private property rights, comparative advantage, sustainability, public and private corruption, good government, institutional innovation, incentives and trust, market and command economies, monopoly and competition, finance and credit, organizational strategy, and many other topics of great importance in economic development. Ideas from some of the most influential thinkers on these topics are featured in the talks and presentations.

These presentations will give students the intellectual tools necessary to understand the complex processes driving and impeding economic development not only in Indian Country but around the world. The course yields insights into the specific challenges of economic development in Indian country, challenges deriving from the historical legacy of Native American communities in the United States. A number of presentations highlight the difficulties posed by the lack of economic resources and business expertise in Indian Country. However, the course also provides a number of examples showing how tribal governments and private entrepreneurs have overcome existing difficulties. Students are introduced to successful businesses founded by entrepreneurial Native Americans who find that Native American cultures can be compatible with profitable businesses. Students also encounter initiatives where private and public actors have advanced the economic interests of tribal communities and the well-being of tribal community members.

This course was developed in 2017 by Martín Sánchez-Jankowski (Yaqui), co-chair of the Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues and Steven Payson, U.S. Department of the Interior, and with a generous grant from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

If you are an instructor at a tribal college or university or a tribal leader and would like to review the materials to use in a stand-alone course or as a course supplement, please contact | 510.642.0813.


Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issue
The Myers Center is part of the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues 
2420 Bowditch Street #5670
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-5670
TEL: 510.642.0813
FAX: 510.642.8674


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