Tribal Leaders Institute: On-line Training for Indian Nations

Period of Performance: 01/01/2008 - 12/31/2008


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Fort Totten, ND 58335
Principal Investigator


The Department of the Interior alone appropriates over $2 billion dollars each year for the Operation of Indian Programs. This figure does not include billions of dollars that come into each reservation through grant funds from other agencies, private philanthropy, the $14.1 billion brought in from tribal gaming or other tribal enterprises. Much of this money never reaches its intended recipients, being lost through expense accounts being used for personal benefit and payment of individuals for hours they did not work. Ethical violations are costing tribal organizations hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Most of these costs are not in large-scale embezzlement or kick-backs on multi-million dollar contracts. Small violations on a large scale are what bleed money from tribal and federal funds. The problem to be addressed is how to develop and implement a character education-training program that will cause a significant decrease in funds lost through ethical violations. Our product will train tribal leaders to make viable business decisions based on their tribeýýs traditional values. It is very common for elected tribal leaders, managers, and program directors to have less than a college education, often less than high school. Tribal council representatives are often elected because they have large families on the reservation, who will vote and campaign for them, and because they are gifted public speakers. Similarly, program managers and governing board members are often hired/ appointed due to their political clout. These qualities are not the best criteria for overseeing millions in tribal funds and an organization that is generally the largest employer in the community. At the end of Phase II, we will have developed an integrated system of on-line courses, virtual library, media library and community features which in two years will demonstrate a significant change not only in participantsýý ethical knowledge and attitudes but, far more importantly, in their behavior. Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. offers an innovative approach to the problem of character education for tribal communities that combines 1) knowledge of Native American history, 2) psychological research on effecting pro-social behavior and 3) technical knowledge of effective computer-based training. In the past three decades, tribes have attempted to revive their culture. Many tribal members proudly say, ýýIýým traditionalýý. Tribal traditions are stressed in our project; our courses cast doing personal errands during work hours, misuse of travel funds, hiring unqualified relatives as ýýstealingýý and ýýlyingýý to tribal members something traditional tribal leader never did. The TLI program aims to increase negative consequences of social disapproval, enforcement of tribal policies and cognitive dissonance. People change behavior due to legal, social, and moral consequences. TLI will directly impact social and moral effects of ethical infractions on the reservation. Through repeated examples and feedback of community membersýý views on the most common ethical violations, tribal employees will be faced with the unacceptability of their behaviors.