This article sought to expose three important aspects of juvenile delinquency in Indian Country. First, it brought into focus a picture of life for Native American juveniles by examining available statistical data. The picture is bleak - Native youth were (and still are) disadvantaged compared to the general population in a wide range of aspects related to quality of life. Second, a partial explanation was offered for the obstacles facing Native youth. Specifically, for more than 200 years, state and federal policies towards Native American youth have been assimilative, particularly in the areas of education, child welfare, and juvenile justice. The effects of these assimilative policies have been devastating.

Although the legacy of assimilation lives on, the third goal of this article was to convey hope. Native nations are beginning to reverse the trends put in place centuries ago by outside governments. The Nation Building Model provides guiding principles that Native nations can utilize to reclaim control over the issues affecting their children. Some Native nations are already putting this model into effect. With respect to Native youth, some Native nations have targeted education, child welfare, and juvenile justice policies in their communities.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson of this article is that in the quest to improve the lives of Native juveniles, one size does not fit all. There is no single solution that will reverse the centuries of assimilative practices against Native children. While the Nation Building Model provides principles that can be applied to a variety of situations, it does not provide a prototypical education, child welfare, or juvenile justice system that can simply be replicated throughout Indian Country. Rather, the Nation Building Model encourages Native nations to meaningfully reflect on the needs of their community and then incorporate its cultural values into each institution created. Simply put, the key to success is the exercise of self-determination: Native nations must make their own decisions about the way they want to live - including the way they want to handle education, child welfare issues, and juvenile justice. If Native nations are willing to reclaim control and design programs that meet their own unique community needs, then the effects of assimilative policies will start to fade and the difference will be seen in the lives of the children and, in turn, throughout the entire nation.



. S.J.D., University of Arizona, 2009; LL.M., University of Arizona, 2006; J.D., University of Iowa, 2005