The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development defines economic development as “the process by which a community or nation improves its economic ability to sustain its citizens, achieve its sociocultural goals, and support its sovereignty and governing processes.” However, it proves difficult to find concrete definitions of “economic development” in the Canadian literature, and particularly in government documents. This indicates that there is little context for the current policy work being put forward by federal and provincial governments, as well as a gap in public information on how First Nations economic development programs work together to empower Indigenous communities and to escape the cycle of dependency.
If we understand programs to be the measures taken to achieve policy goals, then it is reasonable to assume that economic development programs have the general goal of facilitating Indigenous peoples in supporting their societies. This capstone project examines some key differences between federal and non-governmental programming and proposes actionable solutions moving forward in a Nation-to-Nation context. This capstone project addresses the following question: What is the effect of government and non-governmental programs on removing barriers and fostering opportunities for First Nation economic development on-reserve in the Blackfoot Confederacy? In this case, “barrier” refers to anything that interferes with a reserve community’s ability to achieve their economic and socio-cultural goals, and “opportunity” refers to actions or environments that enable a reserve community to achieve their economic and socio-cultural goals.