The majority of federally-recognized Tribal Nations in the Northeast are located in remote areas, and as a result, must be innovative in their approach to economic development. Native American reservations in the region experience chronically high-level economic distress, often experiencing unemployment 3 to 4 times that of neighboring communities. Outside of the five gaming Eastern Tribes, economic activity is primarily limited to convenience stores, smoke shops, tourism, and artisan-based enterprises. Even gaming Tribes are facing increased competition from non-Native casinos, resulting in decreased revenues. Tribal leaders who are cultivating new opportunities for economic development often lack the capacity to implement these opportunities. The United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET) approached EDA with an idea that would help bridge this capacity gap.
In 2015, EDA awarded $250,000 to USET to support the development and implementation of a comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) for the USET Nations comprised of 15 Federally-recognized Tribes in the Northeast. The Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island will join tribes from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York to create an economic development roadmap to diversify and strengthen the regional economy. The initiative focuses on training and sound economic development planning through asset-based development and value-chains analysis to provide Tribes a strategic approach that considers culture values and sustainable development. Working toward the overarching goal of tribal nation building and economic self-determination, the implementation of USET’s three-year strategic planning goals will develop capacity for each of the tribal nations to plan and efficiently convert Tribal assets to scalable economic development efforts and resources.
*Rhode Island did not have any EDA investments in FY 2015