Historically, tribal infrastructure has sometimes suffered from a lack of resources, and substantial costs have made it difficult for many tribal governments to implement sustainability initiatives. Some tribal communities also lack the necessary personnel to develop sustainable infrastructure. However, the need for more sustainable infrastructure is rising in tribal communities. Improving sustainability efforts through education, new resources and collaborative effort is key to tribal development.
What Is Tribal Infrastructure?
Infrastructure refers to the foundation of an organization or system — in this case, tribal communities. The primary objective of Native American leadership is understanding the needs and values of community members and making sound judgments about expenses, services, facilities and the other necessities of community life. Even though the initial cost of sustainable initiatives can be substantial, the benefits to the tribal community over time make these expenses worthwhile.
Sustainability in Cultural Preservation
Native American leadership in sustainable infrastructure must balance the benefits of improvement with costs to cultural preservation and enrichment. Many tribes make significant efforts to commemorate and protect their varied histories and cultures. As such, tribal leaders seek ways to strengthen infrastructure in ways that do not rob communities of their shared cultures.
Sustainable infrastructure improvements may include retrofitting structures with longer-lasting, environmentally sound materials; educating communities about the importance of planning for the future; and establishing relationships with outside contacts to improve health and well-being.
Health and Sustainability
Health is an important aspect of sustainable infrastructure. Some Native American communities have struggled in the past from public health challenges and access to individual healthcare. Efforts by Native American leadership, however, to educate their communities about the importance of community health and the necessity of devoting resources and funds to improving facilities and programs can unify a community behind these efforts.
Finding Outside Contacts
An effective approach to sustainable community improvement is cultivating outside contacts. Partnerships with local universities, for example, can create lasting benefits, in that they often grant tribal governments access to needed resources and expertise. These newfound resources can help tribal governments study the costs and benefits of sustainable infrastructure — as well as its effects on cultural preservation, public health and day-to-day services.
Aspiring tribal leaders can find the skills and knowledge they need to evaluate and implement sustainable initiatives in an MBA with an emphasis in Native American Leadership program. Lasting improvements come from careful study and real-world experience. The tribal communities of tomorrow depend on the leaders of today to create and maintain infrastructures that will sustain cultures for generations.
Learn more about SOSU’s online MBA with an emphasis in Native American Leadership program.
International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management: A Native American Perspective on Sustainable Infrastructures