January in Tucson


For three weeks each year, the January in Tucson intensive education session brings together distinguished faculty in the field of Indigenous governance and Indigenous rights, and gives them the opportunity to teach and hold discussions with Indigenous leaders, practitioners, and community members, as well as other individuals interested in Indigenous affairs.

The result is more than just a series of classes on Indigenous topics. JIT courses not only convey important information backed by research, but they allow space for a crucial dialogue to occur between Indigenous peoples from all over the world. This conversation provides new perspectives to familiar challenges, and helps to make JIT a truly unique educational experience.


How and why do Indigenous nations reclaim effective self-governing power? What is working and where? Our curriculum is based on decades of on-the-ground research, analysis, and case studies by the people who literally wrote the book on Indigenous nation building.


Do what’s useful for you: take one 3-day January in Tucson class, take several, take online courses, or enroll in a certificate or degree program.


Meet other tribal professionals and leaders who are working to assert their nations’ sovereignty. Learn from the experiences of other Native nations that are strengthening Indigenous governance.

“When you’re here, you meet people from all different communities...around the world. That’s learning that you can’t get in very many places.”

- Joy Cramer (Sagkeeng First Nation), Director of Indigenous Programs, Simon Fraser University

Indigenous Governance Program

The Indigenous Governance Program (IGP), a partnership between University of Arizona Law’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program and the University of Arizona Native Nations Institute (NNI), provides professional development, leadership training, and graduate education for individuals interested in a deep, practical understanding of Indigenous governance and rights. IGP’s nation building and Indigenous governance curriculum combines the expertise of world-renowned faculty with data-informed research on what works for Native Nation (re)building efforts. IGP offers both in-person and online courses for tribal leaders and other professionals to collaborate on how to strengthen Indigenous governance.

Master of Professional Studies

The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Indigenous Governance is a 30-credit hybrid in-person and online degree that can be completed within one year. By combining the immersive in-person January in Tucson experience with a robust online curriculum, the MPS gives students flexibility to create their own specialized courses of study.

*The MPS requires applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite. Required courses are offered in-person during January in Tucson.

Graduate Certificate

The Graduate Certificate (GC) in Indigenous Governance provides graduate level executive education and leadership development for those interested in Indigenous governance. The GC is the accelerated version of our MPS degree, requiring twelve (12) credits of course work to be completed within two years.

*The GC requires applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite. GC required and elective courses are offered in-person during January in Tucson with an option to earn credits through a self-initiated Capstone Project.

Continuing Education Certificate

The Continuing Education Certificate (CEC) in Indigenous Governance is a non-credit professional development certificate that allows individuals from all walks of life to take part in courses taught by renowned faculty, covering a wide variety of topics related to Indigenous governance, Indigenous rights, and economic, community, and leadership development.

*The CEC is a non-credit professional development certificate and does not require participants to have completed a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite.

January in Tucson Courses

For January in Tucson (JIT) course schedules, faculty bios, and more you can visit the Indigenous Governance Program JIT course page.

*If you are a University of Arizona student registering for a JIT course for credit, register using UAccess. If you are not a University of Arizona student, please apply through the Indigenous Governance Program.

January in Tucson 2024

Course Descriptions

Our views about what is right and wrong and the nature of the good life are part of what makes us who we are. These fundamental values shape how we interact with others, how we understand our rights and responsibilities and our relationships other peoples, species and the environment. Business ethics in the western world are shaped specifically by two theories, both springing from the European enlightenment, when democratic institutions were emerging and the economy was becoming industrialized. They are known as utilitarianism and deontology. They form the basis for western law as well as social science disciplines including economics and public policy.

Indigenous ways of understanding how to be a good person, as told through stories and the writings of modern Indigenous philosophers, are complex, nuanced, and embody the accumulated wisdom of generations. Historically, they supported the development of thriving nations and more recently they have survived the failed efforts of colonizers to replace them with western beliefs and practices. While these traditions are largely ignored or pushed aside there is a quiet revolution occurring in which academics, knowledge keepers, and communities are currently rediscovering modern applications for their long held ways of knowing.

Across the globe, Indigenous peoples are engaged in the work of Indigenous governance regardless of whether they use that term or not. This course will examine different systems of Indigenous governance with an emphasis on Indigenous peoples living in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. 

While these four countries share certain features, like English legal and political heritages, they also differ in important ways. Those differences have affected the patterns, and outcomes of Indigenous self-determination and self-government efforts. Three questions form the subject matter of this course:

  • What are the commonalities/differences among these four countries and their impacts on Indigenous assertions of self-governing power? 
  • How and why do the patterns of Indigenous self-government vary across these four countries? 
  • What, if anything, might Indigenous peoples learn from each other across these countries as they assert and implement rights of self-government?

The course will investigate the role that law plays in the lives of Indigenous peoples and in their on-going efforts to secure their rights of equality, tribal self-governance, and self-determination. The course draws from comparative sources with a focus on how law can be used pragmatically by Indigenous leaders, communities, their partners and advocates to effect meaningful change.

  • How does law function to perpetuate a history of assimilation and racism within governmental institutions around the world? 
  • How can Indigenous peoples use law to secure rights and exercise tribal self-governance? 
  • What role can legal institutions play in the processes of Indigenous nation building?

This course considers the question, “What is a constitution?” and explores different types of Indigenous nation constitutions, important concepts for constitutions to address, and the process for developing one appropriate for each community. 

  • How do constitutions facilitate tribal self-governance? 
  • How can constitutions help shape development of capable governing institutions? 
  • What should Indigenous nations bear in mind when considering tribal constitution reform ? 
  • What are constitutions, and what is their role in the lives of Native nations, and the history of Indigenous constitutional governance?

This course is about the process of starting and building a venture, not just a business venture but any new risky, exciting and value adding project. Entrepreneurship is a practice and a way of thinking that involves discovering or creating opportunities and then assembling or developing resources to deliver and capture the value related to the opportunity. This course will also assess, explore, critique, and celebrate entrepreneurship as an important aspect of Indigenous and non-Indigenous life. Together we will mix theory with practice and reality, and apply the principles, concepts and frameworks to situations that are important to you.

This course will cover tangible and intellectual cultural property, its identity, ownership, appropriation and repatriation and will begin with the history of the appropriation of cultural materials and the development of national and international laws.

Supported by three decades of research, Indigenous self-determination and tribal self-governance have proven to be the most effective policies when it comes to addressing economic disparities affecting Indigenous communities and empowering tribal governments to exercise real control over their cultures, lives, and societies.

  • What specific data support the core principles of Indigenous nation building (self-determination, effective and legitimate governing institutions, strategic orientation, and public-spirited leadership)?  
  • What is the basis of the argument that Indigenous self-determination and self-government are the most effective nation rebuilding policies?  
  • How can course participants contextualize the Indigenous research findings for their own communities?

The demand for Indigenous data is increasing in Indian Country as tribes engage in economic, social, and cultural development on a rapid scale. Additionally, tribes seek methods to protect their cultural and proprietary information. This course will examine the role of Indigenous data as an exercise of sovereignty in Indigenous governance and self-determination. It will dually explore data collected internally by tribes and Native communities, and information collected by external sources.

The course draws from best practices in Indian Country and across international Indigenous communities. With a focus on both scholarship and tangible data practice, students will receive hands-on training facilitating the pragmatic use of Indigenous data to build strong evidence bases for tribal governments, nations and communities.

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:
  • Understand what terms such as “Indigenous data sovereignty” and “data governance” mean, and recognize the implications of such terms—both for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, communities, nations, and institutions;
  • Describe how Indigenous data sovereignty and data governance link to nation rebuilding; and
  • Realize how data that Indigenous peoples and nations collect, analyze, and use may be different from mainstream data and the importance of leveraging existing data to support Indigenous aspirations for collective well-being.

The food sovereignty movement has been a powerful force that, over the past several decades, has changed international trade institutions, property rights, and human rights law. Indigenous communities have been part of that movement and have affected how food sovereignty is used and understood as an idea. 

  • Why is food sovereignty a concern of international trade, property, and human rights law?  
  • How has food sovereignty been used by Indigenous communities and tribal governments as a means of strengthening Indigenous governance?  
  • How might different Native nations want to critically think about food sovereignty in order to decide whether it is an idea and movement worth engaging with, and if so on what terms?

Indigenous peoples and tribal governments are increasingly turning to international law and the international human rights system as a means of protecting their lands and property. This course focuses on the critical role that international law—including international bodies such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States, etc.—play in protecting Indigenous peoples’ rights to property, self-determination, cultural integrity, life, etc. This course also examines how international law precedents can be used when arguing for Indigenous rights and tribal self-governance at the domestic level. 

  • How can the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples be used to advance Indigenous governance and rights at home? 
  • How can international law mechanisms be used to address Indigenous peoples’ desire to protect lands, property, and culture? 
  • How can the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights be utilized within contexts of disputes over lands and natural resources?

The relationship between Native nations and their tribal governments, as well as national, state and local governments have long been a source of historic tension for Indigenous peoples. Using a range of real-world case studies, this course explores how Indigenous nations can be treated as sovereigns by other nations. And how, as sovereigns, Indigenous nations can work with other governments to solve common problems in their nation-rebuilding efforts. Course participants will be provided with an overview of tribal-state and tribal-federal relations.

  • What factors might Native Nations use when contemplating litigation or negotiation strategies? 
  • Does intergovernmental cooperation impair sovereignty? 
  • What internal, tribal governance dynamics might affect the negotiation processes? 
  • What constitutes a successful intergovernmental relationship?

Although the need for change is often great within Indigenous communities–particularly in places where Indigenous rights are not yet fully respected–it is not always clear how real change can come about. This course explores ways to assess and prioritize Indigenous community needs with respect to nation building and uses case studies to explore how governments work within legal constraints to serve their communities and assert their rights.

As Indigenous Peoples enter the 21st Century, economic development stands out as a critical challenge for the maintenance of their communities, identities, and status as sovereigns. This course examines the issues surrounding economic development as a tool for helping Indigenous Peoples achieve their goals on their own terms. The course will cover a broad range of issues including Indigenous nation-owned enterprises, entrepreneurship, procurement, Indigenous nation public finance, sovereignty, cultural preservation, constitutional reform and the development of an Indigenous nation’s legal infrastructure, securitization of resources, social welfare, and education, among others.

This course examines the development challenges faced by contemporary Native nations. Utilizing numerous case studies and extensive research on what is working and what is not working to promote the social, political, cultural and economic strengthening of American Indian nations, the course emphasizes themes applicable to community development and nation rebuilding worldwide. Historical and relevant federal Indian policy and case law are used as background material, but the course emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the “nation building revolution” underway in Indian Country. Additional emphasis is placed on how tribal initiatives can conflict with federal case law, state jurisdiction, and federal policies and politics. 

  • What is working, and what is not working, to promote the social, political, cultural and economic strengthening of Native nations and Indigenous governance?  
  • While the primary focus of the course is on the American Indian experience, what principles of nation building are applicable to Indigenous peoples worldwide? 
  • In what ways have American Indian policy and case law promoted and impeded tribal self-governance? 
  • What conflicts between federal, state, and local governments can arise from tribal assertions of self-governance?

The successful development of vibrant and sustainable economies in Indian Country continues to present challenges for Indian tribes, tribal governments, their citizens and potential business partners, as well as federal, state and local governments. The unique legal status of Indian tribes and the consequences of that status inform these challenges and require a detailed examination of federal policy and Supreme Court jurisprudence. Thus, attorneys play a central role in understanding and advising their clients about the challenges of tribal economic development. 

Though within the broad rubric of economic development, this course will focus specifically on tribal business law, including the unique challenges tribes face when legislating and seeking to regulate business activity within Indian Country.

  • What unique challenges do tribal governments face when legislating and seeking to regulate business activity within Indian Country? 
  • How has the legal status of Indian tribes been impacted by federal policy and the U.S. Supreme Court? 
  • How can sustainable economies be developed in Indian Country? What range of business partnerships might result? 
  • What steps should tribal governments take to create strong institutions that facilitate economic development?

Tribal research review processes challenge approaches to research that prioritize non-Indigenous methods and values, and allow non-Indigenous researchers to claim expert status over Indigenous Peoples, places, and knowledges. This course explores codes, guidelines, policies, and processes at tribes, other governments, and institutions that govern and steward research with Indigenous Peoples, nations, and communities; the infrastructure, capacity, and capability required at these governments and institutions to support tribal sovereignty; and implications for other entities such as funders and publishers.

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the different types of review processes that steward research with Indigenous nations, communities, lands, and peoples;
  • Describe the relationship between research governance and sovereignty;
  • Realize how Indigenous research governance may be different from mainstream research review processes.

This course examines Indigenous organizations and Indigenous organizational concepts through the lens of Native Nation building. It seeks to discuss the role of community-based organizations (Indigenous-led and Indigenous-serving) as key stakeholders in the nation building process. We will introduce a regional, national, and global perspective to Indigenous organizations (via networks and intermediaries) as socio-political actors within Indigenous communities that effectuate change. Students will walk away with a framework for assessing social and institutional environments that acknowledges the value of Indigenous organizations and community building.

Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand how organizations in Indigenous communities work to solve community challenges.
  • Examine the ways Indigenous organizations work to maintain healthy communities and their role within the Native Nation building framework.
  • Analyze the benefits and challenges of Indigenous community-based organizations.
  • Understand the distinction between organizational outputs and outcomes, i.e. social impact.

The relationship between Indigenous peoples and the environment is one of the most discussed and controversial areas of law and policy affecting Indigenous peoples. From conflicts over jurisdiction to misconceptions about tribal values, the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the environment is even further complicated by competing demands for resources and disparate notions about the governance of Indigenous resources. The course will review some of the key laws, policies, and legal principles that govern the administration of Indigenous natural resources. We will also consider examples from jurisdictions abroad, including, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Better understand jurisdictional conflicts over natural resources;
  • Assess the history of colonization and its legacy in affecting the ability of Indigenous peoples to maintain relationship with the land and resources
  • Observe the extent to which legal principles and doctrines influence and fail to influence the courts in considering environmental issues affecting Indigenous peoples

Many of us recognize leadership—or the lack of it—when we see it. But what are the keys to effective leadership? What skills do contemporary leaders need? What lessons can would-be leaders learn from the past, from the present, for the future?

As Indigenous peoples in various parts of the world reclaim their right to govern themselves and set about rebuilding their nations, these questions have increasing relevance and urgency. Many of those peoples carry their own histories of capable leadership: men and women who guided them through times of crisis and times of plenty. What can we learn from past legacies? Where should we look today for leadership lessons? How can we make sure that Native nations will have the kinds of leaders and the quality of leadership they need tomorrow?

This course considers various philosophies of leadership, the skills and behaviors that contribute to effective leadership, the leadership role in Native Nation rebuilding, and practical leadership lessons from Indigenous experience, past and present. It includes lecture, small-group exercises, readings, and in-class discussion.

Upon completing this course, participates will be able to:

  • Understand some of the keys to effective leadership that steward Native Nation rebuilding efforts among Indigenous nations, communities, lands, and peoples;
  • Distinguish between various Indigenous leadership philosophies and understand how these approaches have contributed to the historic and modern frameworks of Indigenous governance; and
  • Demonstrate the relevance of Indigenous leadership philosophies to a number of contemporary case studies in practical leadership examples from Indigenous communities around the world.

Today, the majority of federally recognized, US-based Native nations outside Alaska are involved in the casino gambling business. As a result, almost all these tribes are implicated in the problem of “problem gambling.” Parts I and II of this class explore the public policy context of problem gambling as it concerns Native nations and the brain science that explains gambling addiction and potential treatment pathways. Part III encourages class participants to reimagine Native nations’ inter-governmental, policy, philanthropic, and corporate responses to problem gambling. The course relies on lectures, in-class exercises, lay and academic readings, practical homework assignments, and a final policy advice paper to build a critical skill set with which tribal leaders and policymakers can engage the issue of problem gambling.

Upon completing this course, participates will be able to:

  • Explain tribal governments’ multiple opportunities to engage the issue of problem gambling through policymaking and tribal government expenditures.
  • Respond to the criticism that tribal casinos increase problem gambling
  • Define problem gambling
  • Describe the nature of problem gambling as a disease
  • Make (general) policy recommendations for tribal government responses to the issue of problem gambling in their broad customer populations and within their communities.

Cost of Attendance

If you are a University of Arizona student registering for a JIT course the cost will vary depending on your degree. For tuition and fees, including prorated part-time tuition, see the University of Arizona Bursar’s Office webpage.

If you are not a University of Arizona student courses are $750 each.

Tribal Professionals Cohort

Each year, full funding for three January In Tucson (JIT) courses is offered to a small group of tribal professionals (10 or fewer) who demonstrate a career commitment to serving Native communities, and an interest in learning how they can strengthen tribal governance. 

Completing these courses will earn an individual cohort member credit towards a Continuing Education Certificate in Indigenous Governance from the Native Nations Institute. Additionally, the cohort will receive supplemental educational materials, and an opportunity to share what they’ve learned with one another throughout the year.

Applications for the Tribal Professionals Cohort are managed by the Indigenous Governance Program.