Professor Joe Kalt and director Megan Minoka Hill discuss how HKS is ramping up support for the Harvard program that helps tribal nations achieve economic success through increased self governance.
Featuring Joseph Kalt and Megan Minoka Hill
June 8, 2023
35 minutes and 24 seconds
Harvard Kennedy School Professor Joseph Kalt and Senior Director Megan Minoka Hill say the evidence is in: When Native nations make their own decisions about what development approaches to take, studies show they consistently out-perform external decision makers like the U.S. Department of Indian Affairs. Kalt and Hill say that’s why Harvard is going all in, recently changing the name of the Project on American Indian Economic Development to the Project on Indigenous Governance and Development—pushing the issue of governance to the forefront—and announcing an infusion of millions in funding.
When the project launched in the mid-1980s, the popular perception of life in America’s Indigenous nations—based largely in reality—was one of poverty and dysfunction. But it was also a time when tribes were being granted more autonomy from the federal government and were increasingly starting to govern themselves. Researchers also noticed unexpected tribal economic success stories starting to spring up, and they set about trying to determine if those successes were a result of causation or coincidence. Kalt and Hill say the research has shown that empowered tribal nations not only succeed economically themselves, they also become economic engines for the regions that surround them. The recent announcement of $15 million in new support for the program, including an endowed professorship, will help make supporting tribal self-government a permanent part of the Kennedy School’s mission.
Joseph P. Kalt is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School and director of the Project on Indigenous Governance and Development, formerly the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. He is the author of numerous studies on economic development and nation building in Indian Country and a principal author of the Harvard Project's The State of the Native Nations. Together with the University of Arizona's Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, the Project has formed The Partnership for Native Nation Building. Since 2005, Kalt has been a visiting professor at The University of Arizona's Eller College of Management and is also faculty chair for nation building programs at the Native Nations Institute. Kalt has served as advisor to Canada's Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, a commissioner on the President's Commission on Aviation Safety, and on the Steering Committee of the National Park Service's National Parks for the 21st Century. A native of Tucson, Arizona, he earned his PhD and MA in Economics from the University of California at Los Angeles, and his BA in Economics from Stanford University.
Megan Minoka Hill is senior director of the Project on Indigenous Governance and Development and director of the Honoring Nations program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Honoring Nations is a national awards program that identifies, celebrates, and shares outstanding examples of tribal governance. Founded in 1998, the awards program spotlights tribal government programs and initiatives that are especially effective in addressing critical concerns and challenges facing the more than 570 Indian nations and their citizens. Hill serves on the board of the Native Governance Center, is a member of the NAGPRA Advisory Committee for the Peabody Museum, and is a member of the Reimagining our Economy Commission at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Hill graduated from the University of Chicago with a Master of Arts Degree in the Social Sciences and earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and Economics from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Ralph Ranalli of the HKS Office of Public Affairs and Communications is the host, producer, and editor of HKS PolicyCast. A former journalist, public television producer, and entrepreneur, he holds an AB in Political Science from UCLA and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University.
The co-producer of PolicyCast is Susan Hughes. Design and graphics support is provided by Lydia Rosenberg, Delane Meadows, and the OCPA Design Team. Social media promotion and support is provided by Natalie Montaner and the OCPA Digital Team.
Joe Kalt (Intro): So they're deciding what the speed limit is through the town center, what's in the school lunch program, what the juvenile justice program looks like for teenagers, all of these things. And while it's not a case of perfection—if anyone can find us the perfect government anywhere in the world, please let the Kennedy School of Government know—it has been an era really of tremendous progress. There's still widespread poverty, but the little-known fact that people don't understand is that Indian nations in the United States, the incomes of Indian citizens on reservations have been growing about three and a half times faster than for the average American for the last 30 years. And poverty rates have been cut in half over the last 30 years.
Megan Minoka Hill (Intro): We have a program from a natural resource management, the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Commission, which ensures the health of the Yukon River through Canada and the United States. That program has been replicated all around the world, including along the Amazon, to ensure the health of riparian systems using Indigenous knowledge systems and ways to not only maintain the health of these ecosystems, but also using traditional means to monitor the region. And so you see that in terms of natural resource management. We have examples from eldercare. The Tohono Oʼodham Nation in southern Arizona has created a state-of-the-art eldercare facility called the Archie Hendricks Skilled Nursing Facility. They've imbued all aspects of the state-of-the-art care with their own cultural knowledge and values of, they call it, 'Himdag'. And so you see across the board these programs and these tribal nations solving universal problems that really can be replicated anywhere throughout the United States or around the world.
Ralph Ranalli (Intro): Welcome to the Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast. I’m your host, Ralph Ranalli. When the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development launched in the mid-1980s, the popular perception of economic and civic life in America’s Indigenous nations—based largely in reality—was one of poverty and dysfunction. But it was also a time when tribes had started being granted significant autonomy from the federal government and were increasingly starting to govern themselves. Researchers like Harvard Kennedy School Professor Joseph Kalt and Megan Minoka Hill also noticed that unexpected tribal economic success stories were starting to crop up, and they set about trying to determine if those successes were a result of causation or coincidence. Now Kalt and Hill say the evidence is in: When Native nations make their own decisions about what development approaches to take, studies show they consistently out-perform external decision makers—on matters like governance, resource management, economic development, health care, and providing social services. That’s why Harvard is going all in, recently changing the name of the program to the Harvard Kennedy School Project on Indigenous Governance and Development—pushing the issue of governance to the forefront—and announcing an infusion of millions in funding that will make supporting tribal self-government a permanent part of the Kennedy School’s mission.
Ralph Ranalli: Joe, Megan, welcome to PolicyCast.
Joe Kalt: Thank you. Great to be here.
Megan Minoka Hill: Thank you.
Ralph Ranalli: We're talking today about the Project on Indigenous Governance and Development. Can you just start off by walking us through what the project is and what it aims to achieve?
Joe Kalt: Sure. For more than 35 years, the project has been focused on the challenges of, what it's called in the field, the self-determination of Indigenous communities, particularly in the United States. Since the mid-seventies, we've had formal policies for the US federally-recognized American Indian tribes of self-determination through self-governance. And our work is focused on, basically trying to understand what works and what doesn't. As tribes now here in the U.S. and Indigenous communities elsewhere in the world set about trying to run their own communities. And these tribal communities around the world are just like other nations in the world. They can have rights of self-determination, self-governance, but fall flat on their faces if they can't do it well. And so tribes are really out there working on everything from their constitutions to their court systems, to their housing programs, to their health programs.
We do research on that, but our mantra is we do research that helps. In other words, we're not trying to just publish in the journal of obscure topics like a bunch of nerdy professors. What we're doing is trying to produce useful tools so tribes can make their own decisions and chart their own courses. We do that through a number of programs and Megan, you might say a word about our flagship program. Megan, why don't you say a word about that?
Megan Minoka Hill: Yeah, absolutely. One of the programs we run is called Honoring Nations, and it was established in 1998 to shine a light on, as Joe said, what's working, what's going right in Indian country in particular in tribal governance, and it's a national awards program that celebrates success in tribal governance. And, since 1998, we've awarded 142 different tribal governmental programs from over a hundred different tribal nations; everything from justice to healthcare to management of natural resources. So anything and everything a tribal government does well, we want to celebrate and shine a light on, for a couple of reasons. One, there are 575 different tribal nations in the United States and some of us are facing similar challenges. And so what's going right in one nation and a solution to a challenge that they've developed might be able to be adapted and applied to another tribal nation. And then we also do it to teach our non-native neighbors that the tribal governments are here and they have lessons for all governments.
Ralph Ranalli: Before we talk about what's gone right, what is working, can the both of you just talk a little bit about what was wrong with the way that tribal governments were first established and the way they worked or didn't work. I think there's probably very few people in the United States who aren't aware of high poverty rates and high rates of societal problems and poor health outcomes in tribal nations. Can you talk a little bit about where things started, before we go down the path to how things started going right and getting to a place where they're better?
Joe Kalt: Sure. It's a great question because in it is the lesson of what's happening now. So, for decades, in some places for more than a century, the primary decision maker over in the United States over Indian reservation affairs was the federal government of the United States. Sometimes very ill-intentioned and sometimes not so ill-intentioned. But having somebody else make the decisions over what was taught in the schools, where the houses were going to be built, what the water system was going to look like, all of these attributes of day-to-day life was really messing things up in two key ways.
One was wrong decisions were made because the federal authorities, often good people, good human beings, but they weren't part of, often, of the community. And so what got funded and so forth might fit a community, but oftentimes it didn't. The second thing that went wrong, is it created an institutional dependence among tribes. So as tribes ran a housing program, it was really federal housing. There was somebody else's government that they were trying to work with. And the change, beginning in the mid 1970s and then really gathering force in the late 1980s with some critical changes in federal law, has put tribes now in the driver's seat. So they're deciding what the speed limit is through the town center, what's in the school lunch program, what the juvenile justice program looks like for teenagers, all of these things.
And while it's not a case of perfection—if anyone can find us the perfect government anywhere in the world, please let the Kennedy School of Government know—it has been an era really of tremendous progress. There's still widespread poverty, but the little-known fact that people don't understand is that Indian nations in the United States, the incomes of Indian citizens on reservations have been growing about three and a half times faster than for the average American for the last 30 years. And poverty rates have been cut in half over the last 30 years.
Ralph Ranalli: Wow.
Joe Kalt: There's still poverty out there. And it's not all casinos. We have tribes who are running big manufacturing, all kinds of entities. So this shift in policy has turned out to be the only policy that has ever worked, because those old policies were basically some other government making the decisions for your community.
Ralph Ranalli: I think there's a lot of scholarship on the importance generally of self-governance and self-determination. Megan, I know you are a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Is there anything in particular that makes self-governance and self-determination even more important in the context where you have essentially nations living within another nation, which you do with the Indigenous peoples in the Americas?
Megan Minoka Hill: Yeah, I mean, I think it's just what Joe said. It's being able to set your own priorities based on your own challenges and serving your people. And when tribal nations are able to do that, you actually see this really incredible regional rising tide so that when tribal nations do well, everyone does well. And so particularly in rural America, they tend to be the economic engines of the regions.
Ralph Ranalli: So the project used to have a different name. It used to be the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Joe, there's a lot to unpack there in terms of the semantic difference between those two names. What’s the reasoning and the significance behind the name change?
Joe Kalt: Yeah. The name change is more than words. You're right. There is significance behind it. The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development launched in 1986, '87. We started out a couple of nerdy professors. What was happening was in this era of self-determination amidst just uniform, widespread poverty, there was starting to be a couple of cases in Indian country of tribes who—Megan used the word 'rise'—who were rising economically all of a sudden. And so we started out trying to look at that economic rise that was starting to take place in a very limited way in the original time period.
Over time—and here comes this word 'governance' in our new title, the Harvard Kennedy School Project on Indigenous Governance and Development—over time, looking at those economic challenges that tribes were facing and looking at the tribes that were starting to show some sustained economic development, it turned out that if you asked why, it wasn't really about economics, it was about government. That when the tribal government in this era of self-determination had its act together, things were getting done better. The priorities, as Megan just said, the priorities were being called, the changes were being made. And so the focus on governance has been really from its early earliest days, the primary focus of the Harvard Project because economic development turns out to not to be an economic problem. It turns out to be a governance problem. Pause. That's true all around the world. If you look around the world, human beings can be real productive when we have a system that gives us an incentive and a reason to be productive. And we can really be really destructive when the opposite is the case.
So that's the focus on the word 'governance' in the new naming of the project. The second thing, the other word, 'Indigenous governance and development', we're still, of course, focused very much on development, but the word 'Indigenous' has to do with in this context where we work in Indigenous affairs, native affairs, the word 'Indigenous', signals that we're not solely focused on the United States. Each nation has its own terminology and candidates, typically First Nations and United States, American Indians. But the word 'Indigenous' is an encompassing term that signals we do work a great deal, particularly in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, a fair amount in other parts of the world. So the Indigenous portion reflects the fact that we're not solely focused on American Indians.
Megan Minoka Hill: Well, and I just might add to that in the sense that these lessons transcend borders, and in the context of Honoring Nations, it's a national award program focused on tribal governance. We've been replicated in different Indigenous contexts around the world. And so Honoring Nations has been replicated in Aboriginal Australia and most recently in Canada to celebrate the success of Inuit, Metis and First Nations.
Ralph Ranalli: So Megan, in turning to Honoring Nations for a second, can you give me some examples of advances that you've honored that are significant and of ones that can be replicated elsewhere. What specific strategies have worked for Indigenous nations?
Megan Minoka Hill: Yeah, there's so many. As I think I said, there are 142 different honorees, and they're all incredible in their own rights. We have a program from a natural resource management, the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Commission, which ensures the health of the Yukon River through Canada and the United States. That program has been replicated all around the world, including along the Amazon, to ensure the health of riparian systems using Indigenous knowledge systems and ways to not only maintain the health of these ecosystems, but also using traditional means to monitor the region. And so you see that in terms of natural resource management.
We have examples from eldercare. The Tohono Oʼodham Nation in southern Arizona has created a state-of-the-art eldercare facility called the Archie Hendricks Skilled Nursing Facility. They've imbued all aspects of the state-of-the-art care with their own cultural knowledge and values of, they call it, 'Himdag'. And so you see across the board these programs and these tribal nations solving universal problems that really can be replicated anywhere throughout the United States or around the world.
Joe Kalt: I can give you one more too, really quickly, Ralph. I'm thinking of the Muscogee Creek Prisoner Reintegration Program. Muscogee Creek Nation in Oklahoma, like Indian Nation, has some felons in jail. They set up a program that allows for successful transition coming out of prisons back into the community. The community said, "We're not giving up on these people," and it's fabulously successful. I think the two indicators of that are the rates of recidivism, repeat criminals within this program have been cut dramatically below the state of Oklahoma’s. And then the replication part, the state of Oklahoma has the tribe to come in and help them set up the next program for non-Indian prisoners in the state of Oklahoma. And so, as Megan has stressed, these are lessons not just for tribal governments, Indigenous governments, they're lessons for everybody. How to run a good prison program. We're all human beings. We have these problems, but these tribes are attacking these problems in very, very innovative and successful ways.
Ralph Ranalli: Right. That’s interesting that there are lessons not just for other Indigenous tribes, but also ones that are applicable more universally to other situations. You know, I'm wondering whether—because of their unique and strong cultural and national identity—whether tribal nations are a unique kind of governance laboratory set up, where you can test things out and bring different perspectives to ideas on governance that you’re not going to find anywhere else?
Joe Kalt: I think there's a little bit of that and a little bit that's not, then I'll say what I mean. We have had an experiment, if you will, being run in the United States since the mid 1970s where tribes operated under a fairly uniform set of federal laws as I described earlier. And then the gun goes off and they're told start of a new race, you can... Ready, set, go. You can now start building your own governments, your own natural resources programs or juvenile justice, whatever it might be. And in that sense, you have 574 American Indian nations who are running experiments in self-government.
What makes it not a perfect laboratory is an important lesson for all of us, which is there are hundreds of unique tribal cultures. And one of the key things that Indian country is demonstrating is we all face very similar problems. We're trying to run ourselves. We want roofs over our heads and the kids to get fed and kids to stay away from drugs and all these problems that we try to deal with as communities. But what you need is culturally legitimate answers, both in the structure of your governmental programs and in the actual activities of those programs. And so, Megan used a good word earlier about one tribe adapting, not copying, but adapting what another tribe might have done or the state of Oklahoma not copying what Muscogee Creek Nation did, but adapting it to fit the Oklahoma dominant society culture. So the key lesson for all of us in this experiment is you’ve got to find your own answers. It's one of the reasons self-government works. Culture's a complicated thing. Just look at the United States, we fight over it constantly, but the people who are going to have the best chance to find out what's legitimate are probably those people themselves. And so in that sense, it's a fabulous set of lessons, not just for tribal nations, Indigenous communities, but everybody.
Ralph Ranalli: So if you head north on Interstate 95 from where we are in Harvard Square recording this podcast, you eventually get to Maine, where you’ve apparently learned some other lessons about Indigenous self-governance. You did a recent study on the situation with the Wabanaki tribes in Maine—the Maliseet, the Micmac, the Passamaquoddy and the Penobscot—who are starkly underperforming relative to other tribes in other states. And you were able to tie that to a unique governance situation in Maine. Can you talk a little bit about the unique situation in Maine and how it illustrates some of the points you've made about the importance of self-governance?
Joe Kalt: Yeah. Very, very important case and your question's right on target. It goes back to your previous question. This has been a laboratory, in this case, a very unsavory experiment that has been run in the state of Maine. Unlike the other 570 tribes outside of the state of Maine, the Maine Indian Land Claim Settlement Act of 1980 restricted the ability of federal policy to apply this federal policy of self-determination through self-governance, restricted the ability of that in its application domain, and gave the state of Maine government essentially veto power over the federal policies. And the cons... I won't go into all the facts around that, but basically the consequence of that is all this very encouraging, uplifting, lesson-generating progress that we've seen across the rest of Indian America has been blocked in the state of Maine.
And from a pure research perspective, it drives home this point about how critical these policies at the federal level of several tribal self-determination had been. Because when you looked at the data, and we had never particularly focused on Maine, but it was one of those things where you pull back the covers and you say, "Well, these tribes haven't been self-governing. If we're right about self-governance being so critical, they shouldn't be doing very well." And sure enough, these four tribes are really in trouble, if you will, economically with very high rates of poverty, very low levels of income and very low levels of the institutional development that, Megan used the phrase earlier, much of rural America tribes are becoming the economic engines and also the social programming engines of their regions. Not in Maine. And so we think it's almost like one of these litmus tests where if you're right, that self-determination and self-governance is so critical to the progress we're seeing elsewhere, we're not seeing it in Maine. It's telling you something pretty profound about the impact of those policies and about, as I say, a pretty nasty experiment that the poor citizens of the Maine tribes have had to endure.
Ralph Ranalli: So I was reading a bit about the political situation surrounding this situation, and you could almost palpably feel the tension between the tribes and the rest of the state. One of the tribal leaders said, "The Settlement Act has locked us into a paternalistic relationship with the state of Maine"—and yet there are still people in the Maine state government who were leery of changing anything because I guess change is frightening, right?
Joe Kalt: Yeah.
Ralph Ranalli: Generally speaking, what has been the neighbor-to-neighbor reaction of people who are not Indigenous, but who live in proximity to these tribal nations that are lifting themselves up and starting to succeed economically? America certainly has a history of jealousy and enmity when one group rises and the other group perceives that something is being taken away from them or that they're not doing quite as well.
Joe Kalt: Let me say a word about what's going on inside of Maine. And Megan, you can pick up on what we see; many of the Honoring Nations honorees are around intergovernmental relations with state governments and so forth. Inside the state of Maine, what you see... It's almost a rule of nature, no government ever likes to give up authority. And as you suggest, a change is scary and all of that. So it's a fairly common pattern that we've seen as tribes get their legs underneath them and start running fast and start keeping pace with, in terms of their performance and housing and natural resource management and all kinds of things. It can be threatening too, particularly in the state of Maine where they haven't had experience with it. And you do end up with a very paternalistic relationship where it feels like, I'm going back in history 40 years. Where it's, "Oh, we, the good state of Maine, will invite in some tribal leaders to talk," or something. We're not talking about that in the rest of the United States. It's government to government. And Megan, you ought say a word about what you see is the patterns in intergovernmental relations outside the state of Maine.
Megan Minoka Hill: Yeah, it's really interesting. I think what you're seeing more and more is again, this rising tide. When tribal nations do well, everyone does all. And part of that is because tribal nations are oftentimes providing services to everyone, not just they're Indigenous native citizens, but all citizens, from healthcare to policing. You're seeing cross jurisdictional policing in a lot of areas, and I think Joe said it earlier, everybody wants a safer community. It doesn't stop at a reservation border, everybody wants one. And so when you see tribal nations and these non-native jurisdictions working together, it's for everyone. And so you'll see because of that, some of those racial tensions that you mentioned are not as important or active.
Joe Kalt: I think there's a piece of it too, related to the economic development, where tribes have been demanding their rights, restoration of their inherent rights to govern themselves. In the early stages of that, there was a lot of hostility and a lot of outright racism.
But as tribes have gotten the economic wherewithal to build a better highway department, a better fire department, a better court system, and so forth, now when they show up at the table, they can show up as equals.
And it turns out, that reduces the tension and the fighting because parties can now talk about, "Oh yeah, let's share our police resources, let's share our water and sewer system," these kinds of things. Whereas it used to be tribes having to demand, demand, demand. And of course, that's going to lead to tension. And so I don't want to be too Pollyanna, there's still a lot of tension that happens in lawsuits and everything else, but down on the ground more and more, it's actually the local governments, both tribal and non-tribal, who say to the higher level politicians, "Calm down, we've got this. We can solve these problems." And so, I think it's been that equalization on the tribal side of the table at economic wherewithal, armed with better computers and better employees and more information. And that's led, I think, overall to much healthier relationships that improve both Indian and non-Indian communities.
Ralph Ranalli: Yeah. If you don't mind, I’d like to get personal for a second. I’d would love for you to both talk a little bit about how you first got interested and involved with this particular work. I can tell from both of you that it's very heartfelt. Megan, do you mind if we start with you?
Megan Minoka Hill: Sure!
Ralph Ranalli: How did you get involved in this work: advocacy and research?
Megan Minoka Hill: Yeah. Well, I think of myself as coming from a long line of Indigenous nation builders. My great-grandmother was a doctor. She was Mohawk and she graduated medical school in 1899 and went to the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin and provided health services to the community for decades, creating wellness and again, healthcare. My grandfather was chairman and vice chairman for most of his career of the Oneida Nation and was a leader both for the tribe but also on a national level. My dad was a leader in native education. And so for me, in a way, there is no choice. This is critical work. And what I love about what we now call the Project on Indigenous Governance and Development is the core questions that we look at, what's going right, is central to the health and wellbeing of our tribal nations and where we're going in the future. And so it really is a case of the alignment for what I want to do in my life work. And it's the best job because I get to focus on what's going right in a Indian country through the Honoring Nations program. And it's really powerful to be able to share those stories.
Ralph Ranalli: Now, Joe, I know your family background is not Indigenous. You’re also an economist by training. Tell me how you got interested in this work and ended up really making it a focus and good chunk of your career.
Joe Kalt: Sure. Well, it's interesting. I often say I'm not Indigenous. I'm from the white Yuppie tribe. Trying to hang on to the 'Y' in Yuppie, because it means young and I'm not doing a very good job of hanging on to that.
But I got interested in this. I'm trained as an antitrust economist, mergers and acquisitions and regulation and so forth. And as many dominant society people in the United States, I came into this work knowing basically nothing. I was as green as could be. I grew up in two Tucson, Arizona where we have tribes around us, but in high school, you don't get exposed to it. It's part of a flaw in our education system, I think. But I got involved directly, simultaneously with the Crow Tribe of Montana, knocking on my door one day in the Belfer building at the Harvard Kennedy School, looking for someone to help them renegotiate an energy contract or a coal contract that they had struck 20 years earlier. And they were looking for help. And somehow they got ahold of my name because I had done some work in energy economics.
And as part of the attraction of this and the importance of it, I guess, I went out to the Crow Tribe of Montana. On paper, fairly wealthy in terms of natural resources, relatively high rates of education, but extreme poverty. We're going back now into the mid 1980s, and I had some mentors, tribal leaders there who took me under their wings and started to say things like, "Joe, hang out here. You might help us figure out some answers." And I got hooked on this challenge in economics of, where does the wealth and the health of a community or a nation come from? Adam Smith’s famous 1776 book called The Wealth of Nations. Where does it come from? And so I got hooked on that.
And in a certain way, you can hear it in the work that we do, even from Megan, it's not solely about Indigenous people, it's about any people in this case, who have a history of oppression, being stripped of the property rights. So their personal human rights, now trying to in this point in world history, trying to reassert themselves. That's certainly gripping personally. But ultimately as a researcher, it comes back to can we find answers of what's working out there and then translate... Our job at the university is not to tell the tribes what to do. We're very aggressive about that. We don't tell the tribes what to do. We just produce information, spit it out there and say to tribal leaders, "Look, you guys know your communities, but what we've just learned over in this other community, you can take and adapt to yourself." And so that's the nature of the work and the reason we do the work. And the way I got into it.
Ralph Ranalli: Now I would be remiss if I didn’t say that congratulations are in order. The program recently received $15 million in additional funding through gifts that's going to support a major expansion of this work. Can you tell me a little bit about where that expanded funding is going to go and what is it going to help you achieve, bringing things to that next level?
Joe Kalt: Yeah. The Harvard Project has long been a soft money operation. We've been sustained through the generosity of some donors and hopefully through the quality of the work that we've done. The new effort has been to endow the program, and in particular, where does the money go? Endow as the key piece of it, a new professorship at the Kennedy School of Government, called the Julie Johnson Kidd Professor of Indigenous Governance and Development. And what that allows you to do, and we've done research, these kinds of programs don't survive unless you have senior faculty for whom it is their career, the way it became a part of my career. And so the centerpiece is this new professorship.
But in addition to that, we have support now for student programming. The Kennedy School students, the MPP students all have to do policy analysis exercises. We've done basically almost 500 of those and some junior versions of it over one semester, instead of over a year, for and at the request of tribes. We will now endow that process so that Kennedy School students, both mid-career and MPP students, will have the wherewithal to continue to engage with Indigenous communities. And that holds whether you're an Indigenous student or you're not. And we have a huge number of our student projects are being done by non-Indigenous students or certainly not US-Indigenous students. So the student program is very important because it's a tremendous learning opportunity for the students. But it also is a service really to tribes because these students work on real world projects. They're not writing heavily footnoted papers for a professor. These are real world projects.
In addition to the professor and the student programming, we now have endowed a senior visiting tribal leader position, a fellow. The Kennedy School is famous, of course, for hosting world leaders, often after they've reached retirement from their official positions. Presidents of nations, prime ministers of nations. Well, we now will have a permanent endowed position in that will be filled by a leader from an Indigenous nation, so that when people walk around the Kennedy School and go to these student lunches and so forth, it won't just be the leader from some say, European country or an Asian country. There'll be someone from an Indigenous community also having a voice. And so these things allow us then to have a thick program that sustains this effort over time.
Ralph Ranalli: So we're about at the end of our time, but I wanted to ask, I guess as the last question: When you both are ready to retire from this work, and …
Joe Kalt: I'm ready, I'm ready!
Ralph Ranalli: … be done. Right, I guess some sooner than others. What's your hope for what can and will have been achieved? Megan, I want to start with you first because …
Megan Minoka Hill: Yeah.
Ralph Ranalli: … you've got a bit longer time horizon till retirement, I think, than Joe.
Megan Minoka Hill: Yeah. I don't know. I think what's really interesting about this moment in time because of these endowments that Joe just shared, it's really an important recognition of the importance of Indigenous voices and perspectives at the Kennedy School and at Harvard University where Indigenous voices are on the same platform as all world leaders. And so I think leaving that as both a goal, but a legacy is really critical.
Ralph Ranalli: Joe, I'll let you have the last word.
Joe Kalt: Yeah, I'd say two things. Externally, and Megan just touched on it, it's no small thing to have this pretty powerful institution called Harvard University put its flag out there and say, "We're going to treat Indigenous nations like we treat the other nations of the world." And that's important because it sends a signal about both the substance of what tribes or Indigenous communities are working on, but also the history of how Indigenous peoples have been treated throughout history. So it's an important external signal that isn't lost on the university. And then internally, what I hope to see is this theme, you can hear from us, it's so easy for educational institutions to think of Indigenous people, American Indians and so forth, only in the past tense. And that's an important thing, culture, history, all of that. It's very important. But these are vibrant going communities now that everybody can learn from, and they're not some little special thing off in the corner.
One of the most gratifying things I've ever had said to me was by an Indigenous student. She said, "Joe, for the first time, I'm not the special student anymore. These are just the problems of nations everywhere." And so in putting that into the university... And we will say with a compliment back to the university, we've had great support from the provost, from the dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and so forth, who get it now. That this isn't just some diversity, equity, inclusion effort. This is core educational stuff in communities that, as I say, that are vibrant, healthy, getting healthier as we speak. So anyway, that's what I hope to see the school and the university accomplish.
Ralph Ranalli: Well, thank you both very much. This has been a very enlightening and encouraging conversation, I have to say. And I really appreciate you being here.
Joe Kalt: Our pleasure.
Ralph Ranalli (Outro): Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode and the rest of our spring season. The PolicyCast team will be going on our summer planning hiatus and breakt , but we’ll be back in September with more episodes and some exciting new features designed to bring our audience together and give you even more valuable information about the important policy topics we cover on this show. So have a great summer and from all of us here at the Kennedy School, please remember to speak bravely, and listen generously.