Ngāi Tahu Research Centre News

Launch of the international ‘Alliance for Renewing Indigenous Economies’

Te Maire Tau, the Upoko of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, University of Canterbury historian and Director of the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre, alongside First Nations Leader and Chief Tax Commissioner, Manny Jules, launched the ‘Alliance for Renewing Indigenous Economies’ in early October in Washington DC.

The alliance is an international group of scholars and tribal leaders dedicated to secure land rights, self-government, and fiscal independence for indigenous communities.

The launch incorporated leading world economists, Hernando de Soto, Terry Anderson and James Robinson and was attended by Ngai Tahu leadership and CEO Arihia Bennett, First Nations and Native American tribal elders.

The Alliance for Renewing Indigenous Economies is the brainchild of Manny Jules, Terry Anderson and Te Maire Tau and is located at the prestigious Hoover Institution, Stanford University. The Hoover Institution is renowned for its eminent scholars and world-class Library and Archives. In addition, the Hoover Institution seeks to improve the human condition by advancing ideas that promote economic opportunity and prosperity. 

The Alliance’s mission is to help indigenous people and communities secure land title, implement tribal jurisdiction, and establish tribal enterprise zones. 

The three core goals are:

  • Secure independent land title for indigenous people;
  • Self-government for indigenous communities who want to exercise jurisdiction over their land and people; and
  • Fiscal independence that allows tribal governments to set their own priorities and meet the community’s goals and needs.

Te Maire has said of the Alliance that, ‘.  . . tribal settlements will only create tribal prosperity if they have government powers and fiscal authority over their lands and resources.  If we don’t have government authority and fiscal powers all that we will create is a corporate body that leaks wealth into the settler economies’. 

Like Canadian First Nations and Native Americans, Te Maire was raised on a reservation at Tuahiwi. ‘Our Reserve is number 873. There is this silly idea in New Zealand that there is one law for all people.  But that’s just not true.  Our lands are controlled by another Court system with different regulations.   And then in the 1960s the government tried to assimilate our lands into general Crown Title and that made the situation worse. We need the option of having our own title, separate from the Crown.  We need to govern our own lands because the local county councils pretty well destroyed our lands to generate their own revenue. Ngāi Tahu contribute too much revenue by way of rates in the South Island and our reservations don’t have water, sewerage or even roads.  The economics on this are clear’.

The event was preceded with an academic conference at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, where James Robinson gave a Keynote Speech on indigenous economies and the importance of tribal property rights, institutional authority and fiscal authority.  James Robinson is an economist who co-authored the book, ‘Why Nations Fail’.  He explained that tribal groups and nations fail to create prosperity when they fail to have authority over their lands and resources. Too often the markets and the economic institution are controlled by settler groups. Having ownership of land and resources is not enough.  Political authority over the resources and control of the market and the economic institutions is required.

The Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto argued that an indigenous title is required by indigenous peoples that clarifies what their rights are because they are more than just property rights.  De Soto argued that property rights and finance are not separate. 

‘It’s not about measuring the land, it’s about measuring the rights to land  . . . it’s about measuring rights, screening them and they produce value’.  De Soto argued that this is what has happened in the Western world wherein the West has created a global economy that legitimises itself over an indigenous one because they make no distinction between property and finance. ‘The western world has established one authentication system over another one and Wall Street is simply one long line of authentication’. 

Hernando de Soto, is President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy and is acknowledged as one of the twelve most influential economists of our times. De Soto’s work was a key influence on the concept of Ngāi Tahu’s Whai Rawa scheme originally conceived by former Ngai Tahu CEO Tahu Potiki in 2005.

Terry Anderson, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution is known to Ngai Tahu as an environmental economist and attended the Ngai Tahu Water Conference at the University of Canterbury in September 2017 - helping to formulate their tribal position on water. 

Important political leaders, academics and policy leaders from Washington that attended were:

  • T. Michael Andrews, Staff Director and Chief Counsel, U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
  • Brandon Ashley, Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
  • Daniel Cardenas, Director, National Tribal Energy Association
  • Adam Crepelle, Southern University Law Centre
  • Kelly Croman, General Counsel, National Intertribal Tax Alliance
  • Hernando de Soto, President, Institute for Liberty and Democracy
  • David Freedman, Special Counsel, Crow Tribe of Indians
  • Darrell Henry, Executive Director, Western Caucus Foundation
  • Walter Lamar, Former Deputy Director to the BIA Office of Law Enforcement
  • Tripp McKemey, Senior Legislative Assistant, Office of U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte
  • Lance Morgan, President & CEO, Ho-Chunk Inc.
  • A.J. Not Afraid, Chairman, Crow Tribe of Indians
  • Ian Record, Director, Partnership for Tribal Governance, National Congress of American Indians
  • Naomi Schaefer Riley, Author, The New Trail of Tears
  • Ernest Sickey, Coushatta Tribal Leader and Activist
  • Kim Strassel, Wall Street Journal
  • Mark Trahant, Editor, Indian Country Today
  • Anastasia Uglova, NPR
  • Tim Williams, Deputy Director of External Affairs, Department of Interior
  • Theo Wold, White House