University of Redlands

University researchers win unique grant to study Indian Country

Two researchers at the University of Redlands have won a United States Department of Labor (DOL) grant to study economic resiliency in Indian Country. The $34,000 grant—one of the first two ever to be awarded by the DOL for research on American Indian labor—will fund the year-long study.

The study will analyze the resiliency of economies on Indian reservations during the past three recessions and how agriculture impacted that resiliency. “It’s commonly known that casinos have contributed to the labor situation on Indian reservations,” said researcher Lawrence Gross (Anishinaabe), “However, little work has been done on the role agriculture plays in supporting employment on reservations. In fact, according to federal statistics, Indian-owned farms have grown 124% from the period of 2002-2007 alone.”

The research will use proprietary data maintained by the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis (ISEA, at the University of Redlands. The data breaks down economic information by ZIP Code and contains information going back 25 years. By overlaying ZIP Code information onto Indian reservations, it is possible to combine the two data sets to track employment in Indian country.

“Agricultural is generally not much affected by economic recessions. By tracking agricultural employment through the last three economic recessions in Indian country,” said researcher Johannes Moenius, “we would like to find out if and by how much agriculture provides a steadying influence on local economies as a whole on Indian reservations.

Planned study outcomes include results possibly leading to the design of economic stability programs for Indian Country and a database of updated information accessible to tribal communities, the media, and scholars.

The combined expertise of researchers Gross and Moenius uniquely poises them to execute this study. Gross is the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Endowed Chair of Native American Studies and is enrolled on White Earth reservation in Minnesota as a member of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe. He has an understanding of federal Indian policy that is critical to this study. Moenius is the William R. and S. Sue Johnson Endowed Chair of Spatial Economic Analysis and Regional Planning, and the Director of the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis (ISEA) at the University’s School of Business.