“Tribal self-governance is inextricably linked to economy,” says Tribal affairs expert Richard “Dick” Trudell, a Blue Stone Strategy Group Advisory Board Member.

Tribal nations, their governments, and their people are connected in ways that are rooted in tradition, blood, and need. Strong Tribal governments fostering and ensuring healthy communities are crucial to the sustainability of Indian Nations. As sovereign Nations, Tribal governments must continually strike a balance between addressing the immediate needs of their people and making investments toward long-term economic sustainability.

Every generation of Tribal leaders faces a different set of challenges in its mission to effectively self-govern. Developing stronger, more resilient governmental institutions is perhaps the greatest challenge of this generation; It requires insight and focus on the part of leadership. It is common for leaders to be actively involved in managing a number of wide-ranging initiatives. For this reason, prioritizing is paramount.

“Change is constant,” offers Trudell. “Today more than ever before, Tribes must take planning seriously.”

As a national advisory firm that works exclusively in Indian Country, we are assisting Tribal efforts to fortify self-governance and Tribal economies, and thereby strengthening communities and culture. Blue Stone Strategy Group knows that creating and managing profitable Tribal enterprises alone is not enough;

It is vital that Tribes clarify the roles and responsibilities of their leadership, develop accountability measures, and generate sustainable income on behalf of their sovereign Nation. To safeguard Tribal governments from becoming disorganized, dysfunctional and disengaged from the community, Blue Stone’s leadership team works with clients to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of interactions between Tribal Councils, Tribal executives, Tribal enterprises, and their constituents. To establish a solid foundation for sustainable self-governance, Blue Stone assesses the current state of affairs and the strength of the existing Tribal system and its processes. “Then as a team, we work with Tribal leadership to align their needs with their forward thinking visions of the Tribal government and communities. Through best business practices and an awareness of the unique needs inherent for Tribal Nations, Blue Stone is able to provide Tribal governments and enterprises with plans that may already be in motion, but in partnership with Blue Stone, are fortified with measures for success and accountability,” states Jamie Fullmer, Blue Stone Strategy Group Chairman & CEO.

Effective self-governance requires institutions that are responsive to demands and align with the culture and vision of the community. Tribal Nations are vexed with requirements of sovereignty and self-governance, cultural and historical preservation, and the ability to put them together for prosperous and sustainable futures.

Blue Stone continues to work with Tribes across Indian Country to assess and evaluate their government, including their overall governance, administration and judicial systems, to determine strengths and opportunities for improvement. Blue Stone’s team then works with the Tribe to develop an action-oriented strategic road-map for Tribal stability, complete with prioritization of key initiatives and financial considerations. These initiatives may include community services such as health clinics, housing programs, and other social services for community members. Infrastructure projects, development of Tribal enterprises, and utilization of the Tribe’s rights and natural resources are also key parts of the strategic road-map.

“The bottom line is that Tribes need to develop a strategic road-map and put it forward in multi-year increments. A decade is nothing; it goes by fast,” says Henry Cagey. Cagey is a Blue Stone Advisory Board Member and former Lummi Chairman, and is currently serving as a Tribal Council Member. Cagey has served as an advisor to several federal committees. He has vast experience in shaping Tribal and federal policies on economic development, health, housing, natural resources, transportation, and education. Cagey has witnessed his own Tribe accomplish goals set 50 years ago, such as housing for community members. He adds, “The need today is still great enough that the next 50-year plan includes increasing the land base to accommodate growth and development.”

Trudell states that “Tribes are always at a critical stage,” and that “Self-governance demands that Tribal leaders deal constantly with continuous growth and external pressures”. Also, “Tribal stewardship over lands, water and the environment present unique challenges. Funding impacts the viability of government services to the community and the ability to build Tribal capacities and institutions such as responsible judicial systems, effective public safety programs, good schools, elder programs and the like.”

“Map out a long-term plan in the direction that best fits the community,” Cagey notes emphatically.

Tribal self-sufficiency is an ambitious but crucial undertaking. Tribal governance, its legal and social institutions and its economic endeavors, must be developed with sustainability at the core. It must be able to withstand political maneuvering and transitions in not only Tribal leadership, but in the federal and other local government as well.

At the core of Blue Stone Strategy Group’s work is understanding and appreciation for the unique cultural makeup of Tribal communities across Indian Country. Trudell agrees. “Don’t overlook culture,” he advises, “It is the soul of every Tribe, and there is always a place for it in the planning process.”

“What sets Blue Stone apart,” says Senior Strategist Brian Patterson, “is that we offer implementable strategies for a full scope of opportunities. We not only help form and adjust to the governmental and economic priorities of Tribes, we want to help leaders advance them on behalf of their people.”

Our experienced team can assist efforts to develop a solid strategic road-map, beginning with a brief, 30-minute meeting with your Tribal leadership. Blue Stone shares your concern for the coming generations’ sovereignty, resilience and cultural continuity. That’s why Blue Stone’s team is committed to assisting Tribes build upon past progress and move toward the future with confidence.

John Mooers, President of Blue Stone Strategy Group states, “A strong government, or even the best leader, will likely fall short of success and prosperity without a strategic plan that can be implemented and has measures of accountability included in it.”

The Takeaway

  • Self-governance is inextricably linked to economy, but profitable Tribal enterprises alone are not enough. Overall value to the community must be included as well.
  • Developing stronger, more resilient governmental institutions is perhaps the greatest challenge of this generation.
  • Tribal self-governance must be able to withstand political maneuvering and transitions in not only Tribal leadership, but in the federal and local governments as well.
  • Blue Stone has over 160 successful Tribal engagements and is poised to assist Tribes with critical planning and implementation.
  • Blue Stone goes beyond strategic planning with Tribes, and arms their clients with systems that are ready for implementation and have measures of accountability built in.