Cooperative Extension Work in Indian Country

This is an excellent brief intro (Indian Country 101–A Primer) to the other major form of government in the US (the one most are unaware of, much less familiar with). The analysis is spot on. But the problems don’t just affect the poor showing of Extension. Natural Resources Conservation Service, especially its Resource Conservation & Development Councils, sadly, are also afflicted. There are additional factors involved, as well [to be continued. But see also this paper] It is significant that this paper was published

Is 10% Good Enough? Cooperative Extension Work in Indian Country
Joseph G. Hiller Assistant Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, The University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona jghillerATcalsDOT arizona DOT edu

Abstract: The Cooperative Extension system delivers local programs in virtually all of America’s counties. Extension’s intergovernmental model capitalizes on resources of counties, states, and the federal government and provides an institutional framework for county Extension work. The Extension system and model is not as applicable, however, for members of America’s 562 Indian tribes, particularly those living on 314 major Indian reservations. This 90 year-old template is woefully inadequate for Indian Country Extension work. This article presents background on how this situation evolved and suggests that national-scale dialogue to develop program equity for this underserved and place-bound audience is needed.

Extension is not reaching Indian Country. This article presents a brief background of life in Indian Country, a historical snapshot of Extension work on Indian reservations as related to conventional non-Indian Extension work and reveals a number of institutional obstacles blocking progress towards equity. As a starting point, it is recommended that national dialogue with tribes and tribal organizations is needed. The extensive background section in this article is intended to familiarize the reader with key historic and contemporary features of American Indian life on reservations. Brief comments are made on frequently asked questions related to Indian Country. Finally, this article concludes with a sketch of who is doing what and suggests we reevaluate the local Extension model and refine it to operate more effectively in Indian Country….

Indian Country Extension Model
With the brief background provided, one can see the conventional American model for Extension work in Indian Country is challenged with political, financial, historical, and institutional situations much different from those in a conventional Extension relationship. There is no political counterpart to county-level government within most tribal governments, although most tribes have political subdivisions of central government–often called “agencies,” “districts”, “villages,” or “chapters.” There is generally no tax or revenue flow from the subordinate levels to the higher central government on a reservation unless commercial (i.e., gaming) or natural resources produce the income. The legal government-to-government relationship between tribes and states may differ between states, particularly with respect to taxes. Tribes enjoy sovereignty and special relationships with other governments in America that are typically described in treaties, legislation, or court decrees. They are not subordinate to counties or states. The propensity in CSREES for competitive funding for Extension work makes the matter worse. Tribes do not generally have resources to provide for in-kind or cash match on grant proposals. They do have, however, significant familiarity with short-term federal programs that tend to have marginal impact and are not sustained over time. Ninety years of formula funding made the U.S. Extension organization the model for worldwide adoption, yet Indian Country Extension /EIRP operates exclusively on year-to-year funds. In view of this, tribes pose tough questions about long-term commitment to EIRP personnel that are difficult to answer….

Many tribes, nations, and communities have appealed for Extension programs, but without adequate political advocacy and lukewarm federal support, the program is unlikely to grow as needed….

This article is online at Journal of Extension

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2 responses to “Cooperative Extension Work in Indian Country


    University of Arizona website for Indian Country extension programs

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