Native American Venture Fund | Chasm Between Tribal Failure and Success | Native American Venture Fund
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Tribal Economic Development Crossroads

The Culture and Leadership Challenges that many Tribes Face 

Despite the special privileges that Native American Tribes can exercise through federally chartered corporations this does not guarantee any degree of economic development or prosperity. To date, Native America continues to struggle to recover from a long history of subjugation. As President Obama recently remarked, “The painful legacy of discrimination means that . . . Native Americans are far more likely to suffer from a lack of opportunity — higher unemployment and higher poverty rates” [1].


The United States is home to 2.4 million Native Americans. In comparison to the rest of the population, this number is a very small amount (only .9%) [2]. American Indians have historically lived in extreme poverty. With the rise of Indian gaming enterprises, the problem of poverty may have been addressed in select areas. Yet, while Native Americans have begun to take more control of their tribal communities  and have begun to improve their economic situation , poverty on Indian Reservations is still a major issue. The U.S. Census in both 1990 and 2000 indicates that poverty has prevailed on reservations; to this day, Native Americans have the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the United States of America. The poverty rate of Native Americans is 25% [3].



  • Culturally poor time management & planning
  • Bad actors preventing Native Americans from achieving prosperity: 
  • Lack of education
  • Geographic location
  • Lack of business knowledge
  • Lack of legal knowledge
  • Poor credit ratings
  • Lack of capital
  • Highly risk adverse
  • 64% lifetime illicit drug use and addiction[4]
  • 20% above national average for heart attack and diabetes[5]
  • Continual victims of predatory consumer practices from “other” Native Americans.


Factors impeding Native Americans tribal ventures from achieving prosperity[6]

  • Tribes and tribal members lack access to financial capital
  • Tribes and individuals lack human capital (education, skills, technical expertise)
  • Tribes lack ability to develop human capital
  • Tribal governments usually lack effective planning
  • Tribal governments usually lack timely execution
  • Tribal governments usually analyze opportunities poorly
  • Tribal governments are usually adverse to conflict and risk taking
  • Tribal leadership is sometimes inept or corrupt
  • Tribal leadership rather take no action
  • Tribal leadership has a limited understanding of business
  • Tribal leadership has a limited understanding of their sovereign rights
  • Tribal leadership lacks best practices in business growth and management.





[1] White House Office of the Press Secretary 2013

[2] Composite U.S. Demographics. 13 Mar 2001 Web 15 Sept 2009

[3] US Census Bureau 2012 Web. 1 May 2014

[4] Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2014

[5] CDC, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, 2014

[6] What Can Tribes Do?: Strategies and Institutions in American Indian Economic Development– December, 1992