About Us


Who Are We?

The Institute for Tribal Government is part of the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. The Institute was founded by former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse. A Tribal Policy Board consisting of elected tribal chairpersons, directors of tribal governmental and policy organizations, and representatives of institutions of higher education provide policy guidance to the Institute.

The Tribal Leadership Forum, a 501c3 non-profit corporation, was also created to support the work of the Institute in its charitable, literary, and educational capacities.

Funding support for the Institute is provided by tribal governments, government agencies, businesses, and individuals. The Institute for Tribal Government serves elected tribal governments from across the nation and also provides training to local, state and federal government agencies and others who are interested in learning more about tribal governments, legal foundations, and tribal government authorities and duties.

Need for the Institute 

While there are over 566 tribal governments in the United States, each with its own government structure, there is no national institution that provides training specifically designed for elected tribal leaders. Newly elected officials are often unfamiliar with the responsibilities of office and must assume multiple leadership duties with little or no systematic training. At the internal level, this can contribute to instability in the tribal community. At the external level, tribal government officials are increasingly required to address complex inter-governmental issues with local, state and federal jurisdictions.

Even though a trust responsibility exists between the United States government and federally recognized tribes, it is vital that tribal governments are able to actively protect their own rights. Too often tribes must obtain assistance from non-Indian experts, many of whom know little about a particular tribe’s legal and treaty rights. A primary goal of the Institute, therefore, is to assist tribes who want to cultivate the necessary expertise and governance skills within their own tribe. Similarly, government agencies with trust responsibilities and programs which interface with tribal programs, seek services from the Institute.

Instructors for Institute classes include educators who specialize in Indian law and public policy; experts from other institutions of higher education; and nationally recognized tribal leaders