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Tribal Nations & The United States: An Introduction

Johnson Scholarship Foundation founder Ted Johnson Sr. believed strongly in supporting Indigenous people. Since 1992 Johnson Scholarship Foundation has been supporting scholarships and programs at tribal colleges and other Native-serving institutions. The goal is to catalyze economic development for Indigenous peoples by investing in entrepreneurship and business education and investing in capacity building for business and entrepreneurship in Indigenous communities.

Native American Heritage Month is a fitting occasion to share some information about tribal nations in America. The National Congress of American Indians published an update in February, 2020, to its publication, “Tribal Nations & the United States: An Introduction.  It provides an overview of historical and current information on Native Americans, including a section on economic development.

Here is some data from the report:

  • The need for sustained economic growth is critically acute in most Native communities across the country. On reservations, 39 percent of Native people live in poverty – the highest poverty rate in America.  On-reservation employment is highest in education, health care, and social services, followed closely by public administration.
  • Agriculture is a major economic, employment and nutrition sector in Indian Country, including 60,083 farming operations accounting for $3.33 billion in total sales.
  • Native-owned small businesses have grown over the last 30 years and are significant contributors to the growing tribal economy. Much of the growth is due to the Small Business Administration’s Business Development Program.
  • There were 272,919 American Indian and Alaska Native-owned businesses in 2012, a 15 percent increase from 2007.

Read the entire report at the National Congress of American Indians’ website here.


Angie Francalancia is a communications specialist with Johnson Scholarship Foundation