by Shawn Regan
PERC – The Property and Environment Research Center
April 01, 2014
Native Americans lag behind other U.S. citizens on economic, educational, and social outcomes. Indian poverty persists even though many reservations contain valuable natural resources, particularly energy resources. Reservation lands are managed in trust by the government and nearly every aspect of Indian energy development is controlled by federal agencies. A complex bureaucracy raises the cost of energy development, and new energy regulations are making it even more problematic for tribes to tap into their resources. In addition, the United States has failed to live up to its trust responsibilities by repeatedly mismanaging tribal assets. Despite these hurdles, some tribes are succeeding in developing energy resources for the benefit of tribal members as they gradually gain more control over energy development on their land. Policy reforms that enable tribes to control their own resources will give tribes the opportunity to unlock the tremendous wealth of Indian nations.