Courtesy Danielle DeLong
Performing garden clean up and preparation for planting in Dream of Wild Health’s East Side Indigenous Community Garden in St. Paul, Minnesota are, from left: Cindi Johnson, Marie Merwin, Nigabi Ardito Rivera and her mother, Sammie Ardito Rivera, Vanessa Casillas and Teresa Skyla Thompson.

Indigenous Strategic Planning

Duane Champagne
5/26/13

Strategic plans are a key element on contemporary visions of indigenous nation building. Successful strategic plans are developed through discussions and consensus building among community members. Most strategic plans outline the economic and political goals of a community over a period of time into the future. Such plans can include writing or revising a constitution, formation of individual and tribally managed businesses, more focused community-based efforts toward cultural and academic education of community youth, and many other possibilities.

There is good reason to develop a strategic plan and hold to it. In one sense, a strategic plan looks to the community and leadership to develop a shared vision of the future and a shared understanding of how the community or nation will move together to achieve strategic goals and visions. Consensus formation for purposes of building or renewing indigenous nations is a necessary condition for successfully achieving community or nation goals and values. Working for the future through community consensus is a basic building block for enduring and stable realization of goals and values.

In a very central way, indigenous nations need to look deeply into their own values and traditions to gain insight in the vision and direction they want their nation go. Community vision and expectations is a major building block to strategic planning. There is no one strategic plan for indigenous nations. The diversity of culture, social and political organization strongly suggests that Indigenous Peoples will move along many different paths and realize many different goals, values, and strategic plans.

The strategic plan for one indigenous nation may not be a useful plan for other indigenous nations. Indigenous strategic planning should embody the vision and future of the nation. A strategic plan needs to address the major obstacles that an indigenous nation faces when realizing its vision. The plan should include the most acceptable ways of overcoming major obstacles for realizing the vision of what an indigenous nation wants to be or become. In this way, strategic planning can express the age-old patterns of indigenous being and becoming that are central to indigenous ways of knowing and understanding the cosmic order.

Strategic plans are instruments of contemporary theories and methods of nation building, which is often envisioned as a form of economic and political modernization. Nation building in the modernization sense, for example, envisions the nation as a collection of individuals who are mobilized toward seeking national political and economic ends. Many indigenous nations may find the modernization vision acceptable, perhaps with some modifications to incorporate some elements of tradition. Other indigenous nations, however, may not accept the modernization vision, and prefer to rely on their own cultural and philosophical visions and goals for the future. Each nation has the right to choose their future direction.

An indigenous pattern of strategic planning cannot focus only or primarily on economic and political change, but must also envision future community, cosmic and spiritual relations. Especially if nation state policies have greatly discouraged indigenous participation and use of historical social forms like clans, villages, extended families, community responsibilities, and social and ceremonial cycles, then indigenous nations need to decide to what extent do they want to recover, or perhaps renew, national social and spiritual relations. What kind of community and spiritual relations does the nation want to have in the future? If strong kinship and community ties and organizations continue to persist, then consideration must be given to how those social and cultural forms will relate to and interact with new forms of political organization and participation in market economy.

An indigenous strategic plan will focus primarily on the renewal and continuity of the community and spiritual sides of national life, and organize capitalist market participation and government as a means to protect and strengthen national community and spirituality. Strategic planning can be a means to help ensure the realization and continuity of indigenous nations.

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