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Faculty Mentor

Meredith Redlin

Abstract

This paper provides an overview of tribal transportation obstacles. My primary focus is on the quality of reservation roads and its relationship to funding and politics. The Indian reservation road system is one of the most underdeveloped transportation networks in the United States. A majority of these roads are dirt and gravel and, therefore, dangerous for traveling. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives between ages one and 44 (Hamilton 2003). Because federal funds for tribal transportation fall short of transportation needs, tribes do not have enough money for either road construction materials or road repair and maintenance. As a result, reservation roads are undeveloped and have come under a state of disrepair. Tribal politics are of particular importance in reference to road management. Tribal officials rarely serve terms longer than two or three years. Few officials are reelected and brief terms make efficient management difficult. Compounding the issue is an overall lack of communication between tribal officials and between state, federal, and tribal transportation departments. In addition, one interviewee states "Families control tribal government" (BIA Highway Engineer). While the needs of the families in governmental positions come first, the needs of tribal members come second. In addition, a BIA employee reports mismanagement of funds, incomplete financial records, corrupt government, and more. The list of tribal transportation problems is a lengthy one, but the list of solutions is brief. Suggested improvements include an open line of communication, hiring and maintaining competent tribal employees, and increased funds. Further research needs to be conducted in this area to investigate effective transportation models. Furthermore, transportation problems negatively affect American Indian employment, health, and education. Little has been researched in this area, and a further investigation needs to be conducted to determine how these areas are affected.

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