Native American Management Practices

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American Indians have a long and proud history of productive trade, commerce, and entrepreneurship. Existing long before European colonialism, Native people created and sustained numerous and complex trade and barter alliances that provided for their various needs. [1]

Native American management practices differ from conventional American management practices in several ways. This book will elaborate on those differences. The aim will be to foster a culturally relevant perspective that leads to understanding and appreciation of those differences. This is a largely missing element in the management domain. As Native American Tribes expand their enterprises and create employment opportunities, it will become increasingly important to understand Native American management philosophy, principles and practices and how they differ from at-large American management practices.

The United States Government Accounting Office states "There are 574 ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse federally recognized Indian Tribes in the United States. These Tribes are distinct political entities whose inherent sovereignty predates the United States and is reflected in their government-to-government relationship with the U.S. government. The United States has undertaken a unique trust responsibility to protect and support Tribes and their members through treaties, statutes, and historical relations with Tribes.

Attempts to elaborate and contrast Native American management and leadership practices have been undertaken by Bryant (1996), Kennedy & Harrington (2017) and Ravilochan (2021), to name a few.


In 1975, the U.S. government passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. As a result, tribes have developed organizations to administer their own social, welfare and housing programs. They have also established several tribal colleges as well as launched and acquired numerous businesses around the United States. Consequently, there exists a practical need to identify and differentiate Native American management practices from conventional management practices.

There are 500 plus tribes scattered throughout the United States, with tribes, nations, communities, and bands holding about 2 percent of U.S. land. Not many citizens know the extent of tribal lands partially because these communities are virtually invisible politically and economically. Well before the arrival of the Spanish explorers, Native American people hunted, farmed, and traded over all of what is now the United States, as well as the rest of North and South America. European countries competed for political and military alliances with North American tribes through nation-to-nation treaties that are the basis of U.S. Indian law today.

Many United States Policies targeted Native American Language and Culture for destruction in an effort to assimilate the Native American people and their identities. When these policies were taking place Native American leadership was disrupted, dismantled, and destroyed because these policies consumed the lives of the people who remained as second-class citizens in lands their ancestors ruled for millennia. Other policies such as the general Allotment Act worked to break up land ownership and assimilate Native American people while the Indian Reorganization Act manipulated tribal leadership, creating a one-size-fits-all Western model of government. Many adapted but kept aspects of the culture ingrained in their societies despite centuries of assimilation and educational policies designed to eradicate Native American culture. U.S. policies in the past targeted leadership, so we now need a specific approach to regain our ways of leadership training. The Native American Leadership Model is a source for understanding leadership styles through a lens of tribal core values and Indigenous learning methodologies. [2]


There are many native American tribes in North America. One of these tribes called the Anishinaabe, which embraces an ethical system called The Seven Grandfather Teachings, to allow for the best decisions for mother earth and the community: These seven teachings include: Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, and Truth. These teachings work together to help the community and individual make responsible decisions.

Many people believe Native Americans did not have trade and commerce before European contact. However, according to author Charles F. Harrington in his book American Indian Business Principles and Practices, he states. " Existing long before European colonialism, Native people created and sustained numerous and complex trade and barter alliances that provided for their needs." Trade has always apart of Native American culture, Harrington also says in his book " The welfare and survival of early Native Americans depended entirely on their own resourcefulness, ingenuity, and persistence. They created and sustained their own cultures and societies, technologies, and means of production, habitats, and both land and water-based transportation routes." Native Americans were not just hunter gatherers they practiced trade and had close business alliances with other tribal nation long before European contact. [3]


The Tribal Law and Order Act (July 29, 2010) helps to address crime in tribal communities and places a strong emphasis on decreasing violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.[4] With respect to business, tribally owned businesses must be structured according to state or federal laws it is up to the tribes to select, they can become tribal chartered corporation or a state chartered tribal corporation. [5]

Native American communities that are recognized by the United States federal government are considered Sovern nations. As sovereign entities, Native American communities are guaranteed the power and/or right to determine their form of government, define citizenship, make and enforce laws through their own police force and courts, collect taxes, and regulate property use. There are 574 federally-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native nations in the U.S., according to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Each is a government entity with its own policies, processes and system of governance. Although, the US government still maintains the responsibility of protecting Native American assets and resources while also serving as a trustee for Native American lands.

The Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute is an institution that helps law students who are Native American or anyone who has interest in Native American Law. They have four main components with the first one being an academic component offering a certificate for students to specialize in this area. This certificate allows students to explore the cross-cultural fields of Native American law. The second one being a public education component through events, such as their annual conference. The third one being advising for the Native American Law Student Association or NALSA. The fourth one being a commitment to their Law students by focusing on recruitment, retention, graduation, and alumni connections. This institute is important because we need to have well educated legal practitioners to assist in maintaining our homelands, ensuring treaty provisions are upheld, and in furthering tribal sovereignty. This institute prioritizes supporting the cultural and traditional Indigenous legal principles. Some topics that are covered in this institute are the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), tribal gaming, treaty rights, the relationship between tribal nations and other governmental entities and systems and many more. [6]


There are six concepts that can be found when looking at Native American leadership styles or practices. These six concepts are decentralized leadership, the immanent value of all things, a value of non-interference, a self deflecting image projection, a reduced sense of the importance of time, and a collectivist decision making approach. Decentralized leadership means to give power to individuals who are closer to the information to make valuable decisions. The immanent value of all things means all individuals have unique perspectives to contribute to the business. A value of non-interference means to promote positive relationships by discouraging coercion of any kind. A self deflecting image projection means to take the blame off of oneself. A reduced sense of the importance of time means to do projects with ease and to take your time to produce the best outcomes. A collectivist decision making approach means to place emphasis on the group or community, not on an individual. These are very important to remember when thinking about Native American Management Practices.[7] [8]


Conventional management practices focus more on the individual whereas Native American management practices focus more on the community and how decisions effect everyone. Native American management practices involve the processes of Self Actualization, Community Actualization, and Culture Perpetuity. Self Actualization from a Native American point of view means that they are born self-actualized and are given space to express who they are through trusting them. In order to live up to this Native American peoples are presented with education, prayer, ceremonies, individual experience, etc. This helps them come into the sacred world to become more self-actualized. Community Actualization from a Native American point of view means that they all work together to solve issues such as, meeting basic needs and ensuring safety. By having community actualization they create a community of trust, generosity, and cooperation. This helps them to make decisions more clear and beneficial to the community. Culture Perpetuity from a Native American point of view means to transfer wisdom from generation to generation to support Self Actualization and Community Actualization. This is done by formal rituals and informal apprenticeships teachings that are communicated from an elder to a child. Each generation can add something new that they have learned to keep the traditions alive.[9]


Many tribes have begun investing both on and off their tribal lands. These investments can be seen in hotels, golf courses, manufacturing, entertainment venues, solar and wind technology, tourism and the hospitality industry, health care, and gambling enterprises all of which create revenue for the community. Over the last few decades tribes have been making changes to improve their economies while providing their communities with a better quality of life.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota noted that over the last 25 years, the number of tribal enterprises outside of gaming has grown significantly.[10] It goes on to report that "The expansion of 8(a) Program eligibility has supported the economic development of tribal nations through the creation of new tribal enterprises." Gaming is one of the biggest enterprises that has helped all tribes across the country. Tribal governments use the gaming revenues to fund social service projects like scholarships, health-care clinics, substance abuse programs, education, law enforcement and tribal court. They also use to revenues for infrastructure development such as new roads, new sewer and drainage system, housing, and water systems. Gaming isn't the only tribal enterprise helping different tribes. A lot of tribes are now getting into the Cannabis Industry. The first tribe in Michigan to get cannabis legalized federally on tribal reservations was Bay Mills Indian Community.


The National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference (, which is described as "a representative voice of consensus on national employment and training issues," is an annual conference that offers an opportunity for various tribal governments and organizations to come together to provide and exchange information, recognize those who benefit from training/employment programs, and have an open space to develop or create new ideas. [11]

ANISHINAABE[edit | edit source]

The World Atlas states "Anishinaabe means ‘Original people’. It is a collective name for groups of indigenous people who live in the US and Canada. Anishinaabe people are comprised of several Algonquian tribes including Potawatomi, Algonquin, Ojibway, Mississauga, Nipissing, Saulteaux, Ottawa, and Oji-Cree communities. These communities have a common origin and they share cultural values and traditions. Anishinaabe people were commonly found in the Subarctic region and the Great Lakes region." The encyclopaedia Britannica goes on to explain further that the "Ojibwa, also spelled Ojibwe or Ojibway, also called Chippewa, self-name Anishinaabe, Algonquian-speaking North American Indian tribe who lived in what are now Ontario and Manitoba, Can., and Minnesota and North Dakota, U.S., from Lake Huron westward onto the Plains. Their name for themselves means “original people.” In Canada those Ojibwa who lived west of Lake Winnipeg are called the Saulteaux."

DISTINCTIVES[edit | edit source]

BELIEFS[edit | edit source]

VALUES[edit | edit source]

BUSINESS PRACTICES[edit | edit source]

COOPERATION[edit | edit source]

Cooperation between Anishinaabe communities is still prolific in the 21st century. Recently Odawa Economic Affairs Holding Corporation, Mno-Bmadsen, and Gun Lake Investments, which are economic development arms of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, and the Gun Lake Tribe respectfully, have announced a historic joint venture called Aki Construction whose aim, according to Shanna Shananaquet, Executive Director of Odawa Holdings, in a press release by the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, "is to be a leader with Tribal-driven construction projects within the Midwest and across the country." This joint venture is touted as the first of its kind in the Midwest. [12]

Personal Contributions/Thoughts[edit | edit source]

One student observed "After researching about the Native American Management Practices I found major differences compared to conventional textbook concepts. Since I grew up on the reservation while attending a predominantly white school I had already predicted there were going to be major differences because I had experienced them first-hand. One major difference I noticed between Native American Management and Management is that Native American Management focuses more on the spiritual fulfillment and enlightenment, whereas conventional/textbook Management exploits resources for commercial profit. There are no social classes in Native American Management compared to Management. I noticed this difference when attending school as I felt much more relaxed and eased in with my Native American educators compared to others that did not view the Native American side of Management as correct."

Works Cited “7 Grandfather Teachings .” Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan Homepage,

  1. Harrington, Charles F. “A BRIEF HISTORY OF AMERICAN INDIAN BUSINESS.” American Indian Business: Principles and Practices, edited by DEANNA M. KENNEDY et al., University of Washington Press, 2017, pp. 3–15. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Apr. 2023. {{cite book}}: External link in |title= (help)
  2. Randall, Monte (2022-02-20). "The Native American Leadership Model". Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education. Retrieved 2023-05-01.
  3. Gambrell, K. M. (2019-12). "American Indian Business Principles & Practices, by Deanna M. Kennedy, Charles F. Harrington, Amy Klemm Verbos, Daniel Stewart, Joseph Scott Gladstone, and Gavin Clarkson, 2017". Academy of Management Learning & Education. 18 (4): 646–648. doi:10.5465/amle.2018.0085. ISSN 1537-260X. {{cite journal}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. "Tribal Law and Order Act". {{cite web}}: External link in |url-status= (help); Invalid |url-status= (help)
  5. "Choosing a Tribal Business Structure | Indian Affairs". Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  6. "Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute". Retrieved 2023-05-01.
  7. Bryant, Miles T. (October 1996). "Contrasting American and Native American Views of Leadership" (PDF).
  8. "Renewable Energy Opportunities Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe". 2008-10-22. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. Resilience (2021-06-18). "The Blackfoot Wisdom that Inspired Maslow's Hierarchy". resilience. Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  10. "Examining tribal enterprises to understand Native economic development".
  11. "Welcome to NINAETC". Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  12. "Odawa Holdings, Mno-Bmadsen and Gun Lake Investments Announce First-of-its-Kind Joint Venture [press release]" (PDF). Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. November 15th, 2022. Retrieved April 24th, 2022. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |access-date= and |date= (help); line feed character in |title= at position 53 (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)