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Toward a Culture of Tribal Power: The Promise and Power of Culture in Development and Nation Building in the Hoopa Nation


The dissertation examines cultural projects and economic development enterprises to explore the power and potential power that culture has in informing, guiding and improving community and economic development efforts in the Hoopa Nation of Northern California. The unique political standing of Native American tribes as "domestic dependent nations," coupled with federal devolution policies of the 1970s and 1980s, opened opportunities for Native Nations to pursue tribally-directed economic development projects. After decades of failed federal policies, many Native Nations have achieved modest to remarkable success. Despite the compelling nature of these relatively astonishing success stories, these cases remain absent from key development literatures, including urban planning and international development. The absence offers an opportunity for a close examination of a number of key concerns including 1) what tribes are doing right; 2) the key components of this success; 3) whether, how and where these are replicable; and 4) how these practices might inform urban development and planning theory. These broader concerns frame this study, which examines the relationship between culture and community and economic development in a Native American context. Drawing from a series of interviews with tribal leaders, development practitioners, business leaders, and tribal enterprise managers, it explores the ways in which the conceptualizations, discourses, and practices of Hupa culture have the potential to inform and shape development projects and the ways in which these practices provide for greater efficacy. The research aims to show the concrete ways in which "culture" can be an effective input for development, a mobilizing discourse, and is often both a means and an end to development goals. Building on the work of Native Nation Building scholars, the study offers insights into methodologies for operationalizing cultural information in community and economic development.

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