Principles of Native Nation Rebuilding

The term rebuilding honors the fact that Native people and nations already have the tools they need to succeed. The rebuilding framework simply puts these tools into a common language. At its core, rebuilding is about using Indigenous knowledge and values to solve modern-day problems in a way that makes sense to the nation. It’s essential to differentiate between the Native nation rebuilding approach and the standard approach. The standard approach refers to an unstrategic, unempowered, rushed, and oftentimes unfair, way of solving problems. Changemakers working to implement Native nation rebuilding can draw upon their communities’ inherent strengths to overcome the standard approach and design a future that reflects Indigenous innovation and wisdom. 


Standard Approach

Nation Building Approach


  • Native Nations DO NOT set the agenda.
  • Native nations make short-term, nonstrategic decisions.
  • Native Nations focus only on addressing economic issues to strengthen economic development.
  • Native nations treat Indigenous culture and values as barriers to progress.
  • Native nations center elected leaders who
    focus on distributing resources to citizens.

  • Native Nations set and guide the agenda.
  • Native nations make long-term, strategic and 7th generation-focused
  • Native nations focus on establishing effective governing institutions to strengthen economic development.
  • Native nations see Indigenous culture and values as key assets for the rebuilding process.
  • Native nations have diverse leaders at all levels who empower and educate citizens.


Native Nation Rebuilding Principles

The rebuilding framework provides guidance for both internal governance and external relationships through five interconnected principles. For Native nations to see results, the principles all need to exist at the same time.

Transformational Leadership

Definition: Leaders serve as visionaries, changemakers, and mobilizers.

Action: Leading with intention, conviction, and clear direction while ensuring the community is included.

Strong Governing Systems

Definition: Laws and policies are effective, clear, and fair.

Action: Establishing well-thought-out systems that include procedures, protocols, and policies. These systems ensure checks and balances for leadership and all citizens to support effective decision making.

Seventh Generation Thinking

Definition: Decision making is strategic and long-term.

Action: Creating a long-term plan and strategic legacy for a thriving community that addresses the needs of the people.

Cultural Match

Definition: Systems reflect Indigenous culture and values.

Action: Building systems, projects, initiatives, and plans around Indigenous culture and values to help create a foundation for a prosperous future.


Definition: Native nations design and control their own future.

Action: Exercising Tribal sovereignty and practicing self-determination and self- governance. Native nations feel empowered to design and control their own future.


Read more about Native nation rebuilding by downloading our guide.

Many thanks to our sources: Rebuilding Native Nations – Strategies for Governance and Development and the Native Nations Institute.

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