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Joseph Kalt

Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Emeritus
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Angela Riley

Visiting Professor of Public Policy


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 encompasses 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 Indigenous leaders address the class daily, giving their perspectives on the choices and constraints they confront in their nation building efforts.Non-HKS graduate students from all schools and departments in the university are welcome by cross-registration. Grades will be based on issues briefs (20%) and a take-home final exam (80%).


Jointly offered by the Graduate School of Education as A-101. For students interested in additional courses on Native America please also see DEV-502 “Native Americans in the 21st Century: Nation Building II” (Eric Henson) and SUP-625 “Land Loss, Reclamation, and Stewardship in Contemporary Native America” (Eric Henson, Philip Deloria, Daniel D’Oca).