In testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Alliance co-founder Terry Anderson explains that the poverty gap between Native Americans and other Americans is an institutional gap:
In the case of indigenous peoples, such institutions are a combination of rules and compliance procedures that evolved over a long period prior to western contact and of rules and compliance procedures that were imposed by the westerners with whom indigenous people came in contact.
The institutional gap for Native Americans includes both a lack of property rights for Indians to most reservation land and a lack of a rule of law on most reservations, and it is that institutional infrastructure that is as crucial as physical and educational infrastructure to “unlocking the wealth of Indian Nations.”
Sovereignty means having the authority to make decisions and the willingness to accept the consequences of those decisions. In the short-term, the federal government has a trust responsibility, including funding for reservation infrastructure, which it must live up to. But in the long-term, it should focus on providing the institutions that promote self-sufficiency both for tribes and individual Indians.