UIMF Addressed Sustainable Development Issues of Indigenous Sovereign Nations in the State of Utah

The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) hosted an event with UVU students who belong to indigenous sovereign nations on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. This was a part of their outreach efforts to promote sustainable mountain development agenda of the UN in the State of Utah and among diverse members of local communities in particular.

Panel on sustainable development and Indigenous People in Utah

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues warns recently that “The 2030 Agenda…involves serious risks for Indigenous Peoples, such as clean energy projects that encroach on their lands and territories. To avoid negative impacts, the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals needs to take place in conformity with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. . . . It is also important that programs to implement the 2030 Agenda are culturally sensitive and respect Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination as well as collective rights in terms of land, health, education, culture, and ways of living.”

Taking into account efforts of the United Nations to include Indigenous People in the UN 2030 Development Agenda, the UIMF invited a panel of students to highlight the economic sustainability issues for Native Americans in the State of Utah and how they are impacted by complicated international relationships between the United States and Indians. UVU students Jacob Crane, Chase Hobson, and Jaclyn Booth were asked to be on the Indigenous Sovereign Nations panel. Professor Jansen, who teaches Native American Studies at UVU, joined them at the panel as well.

Outreach was established as an important initiative of the UIMF early this semester. The reason outreach is an important part of the UIMF’s agenda is because engaging the student body, foreign themed clubs, and local community is important to the UIMF’s leadership. As the UIMF grows, it seeks more opportunities to network with clubs that have similar interests. With hope this will be the first of many events with specific focus on contribution and involvement of Native American communities in the implementation of the UN 2030 Development Agenda.

United States may have its most complex relationship with indigenous sovereign tribes. Hundreds of years before the US was established, England had acknowledged “Indians” as a sovereign entity. Over time and in part due to western expansion, Indians have found themselves in a difficult position. Primarily, Indians are having a hard time creating economic sustainability. Jacob Crane, Chase Hobson, and Jaclyn Booth (panel members) concluded that part of the problem is that over time the US hasn’t honored treaties made with Indians throughout the centuries. This has isolated indigenous people from being able to control their own development and has caused stagnation.

Jacob Crane speaks during panel

For instance, Jacob Crane studies Business Management. He lives on a reservation near Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Crane’s passion is learning how to start businesses on reservations, but in his words, “its hard to find seed money,” and “there are grants but it’s not enough.” To Crane, there are people who can make goods and provide services, but educating locals about business and connecting them to a market can be hard. Jacob wants to focus on marketing to Indians when he said, “I want to make videos,” and linking their products to the internet when he stated a goal to “find a way to link natives to [e-commerce].” Crane seems to be indicating that the reason economic development is not sustainable is because of the lack of access to a market.

Chase Hobson who studies several subjects including economic development at UVU and lives on a trust land in northern California. He found his motivation to help his community after being confronted with serious problems on his reservation. Hobson stated that there is a lack of jobs, “if you don’t work for the government, the tribe, or in the tourism industry then it’s hard to find a job north of minimum wage.” He said that where he is from, “there is a decreasing population with negative four percent growth” and “if you want an education you have to leave.” According to Hobson, in addition to high unemployment, drugs and housing are the reasons that economic development sustainability is a challenge.

Professor Dusty Jansen speaks during panel

Professor Dusty Jansen, who teaches classes regarding Native American Studies at UVU, added “if there are no jobs on the reservation after you have gotten your education, why would you go back?” This is a great point. As Indians become better educated, opportunities back home are absent. This contributes to the dwindling population on reservations, but there are more problems facing Indians. Economic development will certainly be a challenge if there is no population.

Jaclyn Booth speaks during the panel at UVU

Jaclyn Booth is studying deaf studies at UVU, described her life growing up on Navajo reservation, watching other Indian families struggle with addiction, abuse, and poverty. She added to the conversation that, “there are people being raised in abusive households surrounded by drugs; it’s hard to get out of that situation.” Booth explained that her mother had became a psychologist in hopes of learning how to better address these issues facing their community, but as Booth admits, “how can you fix these problems? It takes a long time to overcome substance abuse.” Booth helps us understand the stagnation of economic development. Drugs and physical abuse can be devastating for any community, especially mountainous regions.

Student audience listens to the panel

The Indigenous Sovereign Nations Panel concluded that the long standing complex international relationship with the US has resulted in the difficult position that Indians find themselves in. To Crane, the problem is a lack of funding; Hobson believes that the problem is centered on jobs and education; Professor Jansen finds it hard for Indians to want to return home after obtaining an education because of the lack of jobs there; and Booth sees a long road ahead for Indians facing physical abuse and drug problems.

All of these are problems that are contributing to economic development difficulties. The UIMF has reached out to international students at UVU who face challenges of sustainability in mountainous regions. Jacob Crane, Chase Hobson, Professor Jansen, and Jaclyn Booth shared their experiences on Native American reservations as they relate to economic development sustainability and the complex relationship it has with the US.

Dirk William Gum, member, UIMF

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