Funded by a $34,000 U.S. Department of Labor grant—one of the first awarded for research on Native American labor—two University researchers will conduct a yearlong study to determine the role agriculture plays in the economic health of Indian reservations.
“It’s commonly known casinos have contributed to the labor situation on Indian reservations; however, little work has been done on the role agriculture plays,” says Lawrence Gross, who is the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Endowed Chair of Native American Studies at the University of Redlands and a member of the Minnesota Chippewa (Anishinaabe) tribe. “Yet, according to federal statistics, Indian-owned farms grew 124 percent from 2002 to 2007 alone.”
The study will analyze 25 years of economic data maintained by the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis at the University of Redlands. The researchers will break down the data by ZIP code and then overlay it onto Indian reservation locations to track employment and income.
“Agriculture is generally not much affected by economic recessions,” says Johannes Moenius, who is the William R. and S. Sue Johnson Endowed Chair of Spatial Economic Analysis and Regional Planning and director of the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis at the University’s School of Business. “By tracking agricultural employment through the last three economic recessions in Indian country, we hope to find out if and by how much agriculture provides a steadying influence on local economies.”