Advancing a Free Society

Economic Prosperity for North American Indians

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The link between natural resources, institutions, and economic prosperity is nowhere more apparent than on American Indian reservations. For this reason, PERC hosted a workshop at Lewis and Clark College on “Institutions, Resource Use, and Economic Prosperity for North American Indians.”

If the scholarly papers presented at the workshop didn’t provide enough evidence of this link, Don Leal and I saw it first hand when we hunted pheasants on the Crow Reservation last weekend. Like most western reservations, the Crow has three categories of land ownership: tribal lands held in trust by the U.S. Government; individual Indian lands also held in trust; and privately owned lands. The important thing to note is that the trust lands are shrouded in layer upon layer of bureaucratic red tape. It was this bureaucracy that led to a court decision (Cobell v. Salazar) holding that the federal government pay $3.4 billion to individual Indian for violation of its fiduciary trust responsibility. How would you like the federal government to be trustee of your assets?

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