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Researcher Looks at Changing Indigenous Governments in the U.S.

Political, legal avenues that served Native American interests well for years no longer work

Release Date: January 18, 2012

In "A New Way Forward: Native Nations, Nonprofitization, Community Land Trusts, and the Indigenous Shadow State," published in the current issue of Nonprofit Policy Forum, University at Buffalo graduate student Samuel W. Rose considers what Native American governance bodies should do, now that the political and legal avenues that served their interests well for years no longer work.

It describes the emergence of so-called "self-determination" policies of the federal government with regard to native peoples. These policies, which emerged in the 1970s, involved transferring programs and decision-making power to the American Indian governments themselves, Rose says, rather than having a paternalistic federal government make decisions for them.

"These policies contributed greatly to the rise and strengthening of American Indian governments," he says, "however, the paper addresses another common thread in law and policy that is unwilling to grant too much to native peoples. This strain, too, has been growing, and is reflected in legal decisions of the past few decades.

"I am concerned with two major questions," he says. "The first is what American Indian governments should do now that the political framework that supported self-determination and self-governance is falling apart. The second is what avenues should be pursued in the governance and development of American Indian peoples now that the political and legal avenues that served their interests fairly well over the past half century, are no longer working."

In addressing these issues, Rose demonstrates how nonprofit organizations, specifically community land trusts (CLTs), can maintain the cohesion of and further the development of native peoples, especially through the development of community land trusts originally inspired by traditional American Indian land tenure systems.

Rose says CLTs recognize mixed ownership of real property between an individual and the larger community, so they promote individual autonomy while maintaining a degree of social control.

"Basically I try to show how CLTs can be used by native peoples and their governments to provide services to their citizens, develop their economies, and expand their land-holdings off of the reservation," he says.

"I also tried to show how they can be used by native peoples in urban environments to promote community cohesion in cities," Rose says, adding that he feels this approach is important and useful because it recognizes the strengths and flaws of the existing self-determination system, and attempts to address the deficiencies of that system by avoiding the conventional political and legal issues that have historically plagued law and policy in regards to American Indians.

Rose is a member of the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama and a native of Schenectady, N.Y. He is a student in the master of urban planning program in the UB Department of Urban and Regional Planning, UB School of Architecture and Planning, and is expected to receive his degree in 2012. He was assisted in his planning project by a grant from the University at Buffalo's Baldy Center for Law and Policy, and advised by Associate Professor Robert M. Silverman, PhD, of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

Rose is simultaneously pursuing a doctorate in anthropology at UB focused on "the increasing urbanization of contemporary American Indian peoples and in issues of identity and legitimacy within the broader American Indian community."

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.