Policy Issues in the Self-Determination Era


  • Richard C. Witmer, PhD Creighton University
  • Margaret O’Conner Creighton University


The advent of self-determination, and the ability of Native Nations to engage the federal policy process in a way that includes Native voices, ushered in a new era in the relationship between American Indians and the United States government. Yet self-determination policy as initially implemented failed to meet the needs of many Native communities. As a result, self-governance was offered as a way to expand the policy making power of Native Nations. This was an important step forward in the ability of Native Nations to make as well as carry out policy. Yet numerous challenges remain for tribal governments as they seek self-determination and self-governance. This paper will examine the self-determination to self-governance policy process. We then outline briefly a number of the challenges to self-determination including inadequate federal funding of Indian policy, continued oversight of Indian policy by non-Indian governments and limited tribal capacity to make and implement policy. We conclude by calling for additional research focusing on public policy in the self-determination era.


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