Jeffrey Mason

Wiki Contributions


First Nations Special Economic Zones

I'm not intimately familiar with how the law treats Canadian tribes, but you might find this project (Senakw) being developed by the Squamish Nation in Vancouver interesting. In short, they're building a new development adjacent to Vancouver and because they're a tribe are exempt from all the usual planning and zoning regualtions. 

First Nations Special Economic Zones

Hi, I'm happy to provide some additional comment later (traveling at the moment) but copy/pasting with light edits the text of an email I wrote in 2020 on this topic. Context: I work on charter cities.

"Based on our conversations with [Native American political economy scholar], the big problem is that while on paper it looks like the tribes might have some degree of autonomy or freedom, they have virtually none in practice.

The property rights on reservations are structured in such a way that the federal government has to be involved in virtually everything. Even down to simple property improvements, like if you wanted to build a pool or a shed on your property, you need federal involvement because the land is held in trust by the federal government because court precedent ruled that Native Americans are technically wards of the state.

There's also just a lot of variance in the quality of tribal governments... a handful are reportedly run well but a lot more are essentially the stationary bandit. A lot of businesses reportedly do not trust tribal judicial systems... Walmart will set up just outside the Navajo reservation but not inside it, for example.

And then there's also the fact that the tribes want to keep as much of their remaining land in native hands as possible, essentially that they wouldn't want a whole bunch of white people showing up and taking over things.

And then one final major obstacle is that most reservations are in the middle of nowhere and are home to less than 10,000 people total. And even in large reservations like the Navajo, biggest town is at most 10,000 people. So it's hard to get a critical mass of people, and you're far from any useful infrastructure like an airport."