Today’s Denver Post carried an interesting story about the Southern Utes having transformed themselves into a successful mineral extraction corporation ( It is a fascinating story of how one form of organization (tribal) can be deployed in innovative ways (commercial and industrial), and of how the innovation can serve the interests of the members of the organization. But what does it mean for the identity of the Southern Utes? How much of their traditional identity will survive such a transformation, and does it matter if the answer is “not much”? As in all such stories, the underlying question is “how much is gained, and how much is lost?” And how does this transformation fit into the existing social institutional landscape? Are tribal tax exemptions and paternalistic federal policies under such circumstances relics of the past, exploited and suffered in the present?

These kinds of questions, and the questions of how to keep up with social institutional transformations on the ground, so that our public policies do not address the conditions of the past but rather the conditions of the ever-changing present, represent a critical underlying challenge to our policy makers and, as the ultimate sovereign, to each and every one of us. Our fixed beliefs and stagnant certainties do not meet that challenge: We need to constantly strive to apply a broadly applicable system of analysis to a constantly changing world.

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