The Tohono O'odham Nation, which is in Southern Arizona and northern Mexico, has a tribal governance structure that other native nations can learn from, and that's why the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona is featuring the tribe in some of its courses about governance.

The institute is offering a series of online courses called Rebuilding Native Nations, and director Ian Record said he hopes they will help tribes achieve their goals and learn from others.

“One of the main objectives of this curriculum is to provide some nations — who are struggling to regain control over their own affairs and create vibrant futures of their own design — offer them an opportunity to learn for other nations who have been engaged in nation building work for decades now,” Record said.

Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. has given lectures as part of the courses. He imparts his experience as chairman to others who are trying to adapt their tribes and nations to the best governance models for them.

“We need to realize that there’s technology out there, there’s other tribal entities that have had success stories that we might be able to learn from and to gain some knowledge and some ability to maybe change the kinds ways that we may have been so tunnel visioned in approaching certain issues,” Norris said.

For the Tohono O'odham, Norris said, that meant using technology to provide electronic copies of the tribal budget instead. It wasn't easy, he said, but it made more sense than printing thousands of pages to distribute hard copies to the 22 tribal legislature members.

The nation has a sustained effort toward self governance and self control, Record said. That's visible in the Archie Hendricks, Sr. Skilled Nursing Facility Tohono O'odham Hospice, and the Tohono O'odham Nursing Care Authority.