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On Native Ground: Collaborative Transportation Planning on Indian Reservations - January 1995

Click HERE for graphic.


   This paper reports on the development of a pilot transportation plan,
applying the new guidance of ISTEA to a Native American reservation. 
This plan, for the Cherokee Indian Reservation in western North
Carolina, was a cooperative venture between the federal government, the
State of North Carolina, and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. 
We reflect on this cooperative effort and recommend ways to increase
tribal control over future transportation planning.
   Indian tribes are explicitly intended to benefit under the new, more
open transportation planning process established by the ISTEA.  Our
study devoted particular attention to the non-technical, process-
oriented phases of transportation planning -- much more than in most
transportation plans prepared by outside consultants.  Given the lack of
tribal involvement in planning reported in the literature, we assumed
such emphasis would be necessary.  Despite our focus on process and
local participation, however, our efforts met with mixed success.
   Difficulties in doing standard transportation planning
collaboratively with a tribe include past intergovernmental tensions, a
tradition of grant-seeking as a substitute for long range planning, and
a lack of tribal commitment to plans prepared by outside consultants. 
To overcome such factors, we believe it is necessary to make more
substantial changes to the traditional transportation planning process.
   Our recommended approach brings tribal leaders and their concerns
more actively into transportation planning.  Lacking in-house
transportation expertise and commitment to comprehensive planning, we
suggest a more collaborative approach, combining the traditional, time-
tested technical planning process with strategic elements.  Strategic
planning, with its focus on the critical issues perceived by local
leaders, is more likely to engage and capture the attention of tribes
previously outside the transportation decision process.  It is also more
likely to generate plans that are understood and supported by tribal


   This paper reports on a pilot transportation plan for the Cherokee
Indian Reservation in western North Carolina.  A recent change in
federal transportation policy mandates increased tribal participation in
transportation planning on reservations; the, process used to develop
this plan was an important first step in that direction.  The plan is
the result of a unique, cooperative venture between the federal
government, the State of North Carolina, and the Eastern Band of the
Cherokee Indians.  We reflect on this cooperative effort and make
recommendations on how tribal participation in transportation planning
can be increased on this and other reservations in the future.
   In crafting a new federal transportation policy for the 1990s,
Congress sought to open the decisionmaking process to a number of
formerly excluded constituencies, including Native Americans.  For
example, the finance, construction, and maintenance of highways in the
United States has historically been a cooperative venture between the
Federal Highway Administration and the state departments of
transportation.  Most other constituencies -- regional governments,
counties, cities, citizen groups, environmentalists, Indian tribes, etc.
have traditionally played only secondary roles in shaping highway
development.  This traditional arrangement -with the federal and state
departments of transportation at the center and all others on the
periphery -- was fundamentally changed with the passage of the
Intermodal.  Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991. 
Under the ISTEA, local governments and interest groups are ceded a
larger role in the development of local highway, street, and
transportation systems.
   Indian tribes are explicitly intended to benefit under the new, more
open transportation planning process established by the ISTEA.  And, in
addition to general provisions that provide for increased cooperation,
the ISTEA also provides specific assistance to Native Americans, both in
terms of funding for transportation projects and in terms of improved
planning.  Given the historical lack of tribal participation in
transportation planning, our study focuses on the process of developing
a transportation plan for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians to
make recommendations to improve cooperative federal/state/tribal
transportation planning in the future.


   This project began with informal discussions between Eastern Band of
the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) Planning staff and Federal Highway
Administration staff during 1992 over the need for cooperative federal,
state, and tribal transportation planning on the Cherokee Reservation. 
From the outset, this study had two specific goals:

   1. To cooperatively develop a plan for the Cherokee Reservation for
      long-range transportation development, transportation project
      selection, and promotion of tourism recreational travel; and

   2. To use this joint planning venture as a model for future
      cooperative transportation planning efforts on Indian reservations

   The first of these two goals was met with the completion of the
Cherokee Indian Reservation Transportation Plan in June 1994 (1).  A
second report -- which proposes a model for future cooperative federal,
state, tribal transportation planning -- was completed in August 1994
(2) and is summarized in this paper.
   Given the focus on cooperative planning, a diverse project team and
project advisory committee were


assembled.  The project was headed by the Technology Transfer Center at
the University of North Carolina Institute of Transportation Research
and Education (ITRE).  ITRE was selected because the Technology Transfer
Center specializes in local government outreach and training in
transportation engineering.  The project team, which was composed
entirely of non-Indians, worked with Cherokee Tribal Planning staff
under the guidance of a large and diverse Technical Advisory Committee. 
This committee, which included both tribe members and nontribe members,
was initially comprised of representatives from the tribal government,
tribal transportation, tribal travel and promotion, the Bureau of Indian
Affairs, adjacent county governments, the National Park Service, and the
Tennessee Valley Authority.  A representative from the EBCI Senior
Citizens Program, which operates van service for elderly and disabled
tribe members, was later added to the committee.
   The preparation of the plan and the bulk of the technical analysis
were done by Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., a private transportation
planning and engineering firm in Cary, North Carolina.  The Kimley-Horn
staff was assisted in several areas by faculty and students from area

   -  The Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of
      North Carolina at Chapel Hill assisted with public participation
      and needs assessment;

   -  The Department of Park, Recreation, and Tourism Management at
      North Carolina State University assisted with tourism forecasts;

   -  The Departments of History and Anthropology at the University of
      Tennessee, Knoxville provided background information on Cherokee
      culture, politics, and archaeology.

   Responsibility for process observation and assessment, including the
preparation of this report, was assigned to the team from the Department
of City and Regional Planning at Chapel Hill.  Their role was not simply
to observe and record, they worked actively throughout the project to
facilitate tribal participation in the planning process, with assistance
from the Cherokee Tribal Planning Office, ITRE, and Kimley-Horn.


                                Table 1:
                      Project Organization for the
                      Cherokee Transportation Plan

      Project Management

Primary Responsibility     UNC Institute for Transportation Research and

Secondary Responsibility   Cherokee Transportation Plan Project Advisory

                           Cherokee Tribal Planning Office

      Plan Preparation

Primary Responsibility     Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.

Secondary Responsibility   Department of City and Regional Planning
                           (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

                           Department of Park, Recreation, and Tourism
                           Management (North Carolina State University)

                           Departments of History and Anthropology
                           (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

                           UNC Institute for Transportation Research and

      Process Observation and Assessment

Primary Responsibility     Department of City and Regional Planning
                           (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Secondary Responsibility   Cherokee Tribal Planning Office

                           UNC Institute for Transportation Research and

                           Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.

The Planning Process

   Typically transportation planning studies can be divided into three
principal phases: pre-analysis, technical analysis, and post-analysis
(3).  Outside assistance is most often sought for the middle phase --
technical analysis--where most of the specialized technical analysis is
performed.  The initial and concluding phases -- pre and post-analysis--
are most often locally generated without substantial outside assistance.
   Given our focus on process, this study devoted particular attention
to the initial and concluding phases of transportation planning; much
more attention than would be found in most transportation plans prepared
by outside consultants.  Such emphasis is supported in the literature on
transportation planning in Native American settings.  In their study of
transportation planning in poor, rural areas, for example, Hauser
(4) stress the importance of establishing local community organization
and developing detailed implementation plans.
   The outreach efforts in our planning process drew heavily on the work
of Crain and others on transportation planning in Native American
settings.  With regard to the pre-analysis phase, Crain (5) addresses
how to elicit goals in a Native American community based on his
transportation planning work for the Menominee Nation.  In Crain's
study, the work was guided by an advisory committee made up of people
whom the tribal leadership felt would be interested in transportation
and informed by interviews with other people who, because of their
responsibilities within the tribe, would have insights into the tribe's
transportation needs.  Once established, this process was used to
enumerate and evaluate the goals, which were then broken down into
categories and listed in their order of priority (based on the number of
people expressing the goal, the frequency


of the expression, the range of groups expressing the goal, and the
intensity of the expression).
   Drawing from Crain's work, our study devoted a high level of effort
to local participation.  Specifically:

   -  We included as many stakeholders as possible on the Project
      Advisory Committee (from both on and off of the reservation and
      including both tribal members and non-members);

   -  We relied heavily on the tribal Planning Staff to advise the
      consultant team on logistics, to offer introductions, and to set
      up meetings with officials;

   -  We conducted interviews of tribal leaders and representatives of
      business and citizens groups to learn about the institutional
      framework and the specific transportation issues;

   -  We held planning workshops--allowing participants to walk through
      a number of maps, videos, and other displays--to create a more
      informal, participatory forum than typical public hearings; and

   -  We asked tribe members and visitors attending the Cherokee Fall
      Festival to identify transportation needs and concerns in a survey
      conducted by the Cherokee Tribal Travel and Tourism Office.

   Throughout the project, the planning team promoted a cooperative,
participatory planning process.  At the outset, experts on Cherokee
history and culture provided information regarding public participation
and local political process.  The inaugural meeting of the Project
Advisory Committee in July 1993 focused on ways to encourage local
participation in the planning process.  And during the summer of 1993,
nine in-depth interviews were conducted with key local actors regarding
transportation needs and encouraging local participation.  Our efforts
to encourage local participation are summarized in Table 2 below and
described in detail in the pages that follow.
   Responses from the preliminary meetings and interviews indicated that
transportation was a relatively low profile issue on the reservation
and, therefore, it would be difficult to encourage active participation
in the planning process from Tribal Council members, business leaders,
and the general public.  Throughout the study period the dominant public
issue on the reservation was whether casino-style gaming could and/or
should be established in Cherokee.  This issue commanded local
policymaking and, in many ways, preempted interest in transportation
planning by local leaders and tribe members.


                                 Table 2
                Efforts to Encourage Local Participation
                      Cherokee Transportation Plan

  Outreach Effort              Date   Outcome

     Pre-Analysis Phase

Advisory Committee Meeting     7/93   57% attendance (8 of 14 members)

Key Actor Interviews           7/93   Five interviews

Tribal Council Presentation    8/93   Questions about project scope;
                                      member added to the Project

Public Meeting                 9/93   Poor attendance (4)

Key Actor Interviews           9/93   Four interviews

Advisory Committee Meeting     9/93   60% attendance (9 of 15 members)

  Technical Analysis Phase

Local/Visitor Travel Surveys   10/93  44 local residents. 20 visitors

     Post-Analysis Phase

Advisory Committee Meeting     2/94   53 % attendance (8 of 15 members)

Tribal Council Presentation    5/94   End of a lone agenda, discussion
                                      cut short by late hour

Follow-up Key Actor Interviews 5/94   Six interviews

Tribal Council Workshop and     5/94  Poor Council attendance (2) and
                                      Advisory Committee Meeting40% committee Attendance (6 of 15

Pre-Analysis:  Encouraging local participation to determine goals.
               issues, and problems.

   Planning studies, especially those not specifically governed by a
planning board or commission, are frequently overseen by advisory
committees of composed of appointed, interested parties.  In this
respect, the organization of a project advisory committee for the
Cherokee transportation plan was fairly typical.
   From the outset, the planning team sought the broadest possible
representation on the committee, though with little knowledge of local
institutions or actors, we relied primarily on Cherokee Tribal Planning
Staff to select and invite advisory committee members, as shown in Table


                                 Table 3
              Composition of the Project Advisory Committee

       Representation                 Number      Attendance

                   Official Advisory Committee Members

  Chiefs Office, Cherokee                1    0 % attendance

  Tribal Council, Cherokee               1    75 % attendance
                                              (representative changed
                                              during study)

  Tribal Planning Office, Cherokee       2    100 % attendance

  Senior Citizens Program. Cherokee      1    67 % attendance (added to
                                              committee after 1st

  Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cherokee     1    75 % attendance
                                              (representative changed
                                              during study)

  Heywood County, Waynesville            1    0 % attendance

  Jackson County Transit, Sylva          1    75 % attendance

  Swain County, Bryson City              1    25 % attendance

  National Park Service, Gatlinburg      1    75 % attendance
                                              (representative changed
                                              during study)

  -Tennessee Valley Authority, Knoxville 1    75 % attendance

  North Carolina Department of           1    0 % attendance
  Transportation, Asheville

  North Carolina Department of           1    75 % attendance
  Transportation, Raleigh

  Federal Highways Administration,       1    75 % attendance

  Federal Highways Administration,       1    0 % attendance

               Other Advisory Committee Meeting Attendees

  Cherokee Boys Club, Cherokee           1    50 % attendance

  Hotel Operator, Cherokee               1    25% attendance

  Tribal Council Cherokee                1    50% attendance (attendance
                                              by non-committee members)


   The committee was comprised primarily of representatives from tribal,
adjacent local, state, and federal governments.  Initially four, and
later five, of the fifteen committee members were directly affiliated
with the tribe; the remaining ten members represented outside agencies
(including the Bureau of Indian Affairs).  However, thanks to
invitations to other Cherokee leaders to participate during the study,
actual attendance by tribe members at committee meetings was about equal
to attendance by other representatives.  While inclusion of
representatives from outside agencies was probably warranted, the ratio
of "outside" committee members to "inside" or tribal members was
problematic for at least two reasons.
   First, and foremost, having more tribal members on the committee
could have stimulated more local interest and participation in the
project.  Many of the key actors interviewed at the conclusion of the
study reported


that the transportation plan was viewed initially by many as a study by
outsiders for outsiders.  The struggle to overcome this "outsider"
perception was made more difficult by the relative lack of local
representation on the project advisory committee.
   The second problem with having fewer tribal members on the advisory
committee was the relative lack of local knowledge of tribal
transportation issues.  For example, despite the fact that tourist
access to the reservation and tourist-related traffic congestion in the
summer months were primary issues addressed in the plan, there were no
representatives from the Tribal Travel and Promotion Office or from the
reservation hotel/motel operators.  Nor was there, initially, a
representative from the local transit service for the elderly and
   A representative from the local elderly and handicapped van system
requested participation in the study and was added after the first
advisory committee meeting.  The addition of this representative from
the Cherokee Senior Citizens Program to the advisory committee is an
interesting story of the input of cable television on public
participation.  The director saw the initial project presentation to the
Tribal Council by the consultants on the local public access television
station.  Concerned at being excluded from a study directly related to
her work, the Senior Center Director drove immediately to the Council
House and, while the consultant presentation was still in progress,
addressed the council and asked to be included in the study.  She was
immediately added as a member.
   As a rule, the outside members, with a few exceptions, played less
active roles in the meetings.  Most tended to observe and comment only
on issues that related to the agency they represented.  Perhaps not
surprisingly, the tribal representatives tended to be more active
participants.  In follow-up interviews at the conclusion of the study,
at least two tribal committee members admitted to not fully
understanding the purpose of the study or the role of the advisory
committee.  And the meandering discussions in many of the meetings,
though often fruitful and informative, confirmed this confusion.

Technical Analysis Phase

   The technical analysis process was quite straightforward, though no
formal travel demand modelling was performed.  Perhaps typical of
transportation planning in small towns and rural areas, the land use,
traffic, and accident data were often incomplete, limited, or otherwise
unusable, which constrained the scope of the analysis somewhat.  In
particular, the lack of existing detailed land use data and the
uncertain possibility of future large scale gaming on the reservation
rendered all forecasts of future traffic levels quite speculative.
   Demographic data were available through the U.S. Census and the
Tribal Planning Office.  Tourism data were provided by the North
Carolina Department of Commerce.  Data on the street and highways system
came from tribal maps, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the North Carolina
Department of Transportation, previous reservation transportation plans,
and the current North Carolina Transportation Improvement Program. 
Finally, travel information was supplemented with travel survey data.
   Using the Highway Capacity Manual (6), the consultants estimated
current peak traffic congestion levels (expressed in terms of "Roadway
Levels of Service") at eleven locations throughout the reservation. 
They then used population growth, tourism projections, and the travel
survey data to estimate traffic levels for the year 2015 and calculate
future roadway levels of service.  The results, quite predictably,
showed that already severe peak tourist season traffic congestion will
likely worsen considerably in the coming years without substantial
capacity improvements on key roadways.
   Interestingly, a number of transportation problems, unique to the
Cherokee Reservation, arose during the


interviews and public meetings that would have been difficult to      
though standard aggregate data sources and analytical techniques.  For
example, pedestrian travel was a frequently cited problem, somewhat of a
surprise for a small town with a widely dispersed, largely rural
residential population.  Respondents to the travel survey identified "no
place to walk" as the single biggest transportation problem on the
reservation.  Relatively low incomes, low levels of auto ownership,
frequent "casual carpooling" with relatives and neighbors, and a
cultural tradition for walking combined to make pedestrian travel --
particularly among the young and old -- a far more common means of
travel than is found in most small towns and rural areas.  The general
absence of sidewalks and shoulders along reservation roads forces people
to walk in the traffic lanes and results in proportionally high numbers
of pedestrian accidents and fatalities.  As a result, lack of sidewalks
was considered an important transportation deficiency by local
residents. (State transportation policy, by contrast, considers
sidewalks on state roads an "enhancement" and not an integral part of
the state roads system.)
   From this combined quantitative/qualitative work, the consultants
prepared a technical memorandum documenting the analysis and identifying
a list of transportation deficiencies that were then organized into a
list of four major categories during committee discussion (Table 4). 
These categories differed from those in traditional transportation plans
in that they included a number of community policy issues as well as
deficiencies in transportation infrastructure and maintenance.


                                 Table 4
                 Transportation Deficiencies Identified
                     in the Technical Analysis Phase

                         Downtown Cherokee Area

          Parking issues (on-street parking, fringe parking)

          Intersection improvements, including signalization

          Capacity deficiencies (congestion)

          Sidewalks and pedestrian facilities

                    Major Roads Approaching Cherokee

          Capacity deficiency on US 19 (the principal east-west highway)

          Capacity deficiency on US 441 north (the principal north-south

          Safety improvements on US 19 (passing lanes, guardrails, etc.)

          Sidewalks on US 441 and US 19

          Welcome centers, rest areas

                         Local Streets and Roads

          Street name signs

          Paving program for unpaved streets

          Provisions for pedestrians and bicycles

          Local street maintenance program

          Bridge repairs and replacements

                              Policy Issues

          Downtown redevelopment

          Land use planning
          Development standards (site plan and driveway reviews, traffic
          impact studies, etc.)

          Sidewalk policy

          Residential driveway design and maintenance

          Public transportation

          Continuing transportation planning


Post-Analysis Phase: Solutions and Strategies for Implementation.

   Following the recommendations of Crain (5) and Anding and Fulton (7),
the plan devoted considerable attention to the post-analysis phase, mid
in particular, the implementation of recommended solutions.  A number of
transportation-related plans have been prepared for the reservation over
the years, but these plans -- all of which were prepared by outside
consultants or agencies -- have been relegated to the shelf and do not
appear to guide current transportation or development activities.  In
order to overcome the problem of implementing transportation plans, the
current plan identifies specific improvement projects to be undertaken
for each of five issue areas defined in the plan.  Each project
identified included a description, estimated cost, estimated
implementation time, and, importantly, the institution or institutions
(i.e. tribe, BIA, North Carolina DOT, etc.) responsible for project
   Given the problem/issue list developed during the technical analysis
phase, the goal of the final phase of the plan was to solicit input on
the list, prioritize the issues, develop a set of specific projects to
address each of the prioritized issues, and, finally, develop an
implementation strategy for each of the projects.  This final goal -an
implementation plan within the plan -- was critical given the failure to
implement most of recommendations in previous plans.


   The outreach efforts in this planning process were clearly a mix of
successes and failures.  Efforts to reach and include individuals -- key
actor interviews and travel surveys -- clearly worked best.  Next best
were the advisory committee meetings; these small group settings were
fruitful but unevenly attended.  Least successful were the formal
presentations and large meetings -- Tribal Council Presentations, public
meetings, and the Tribal Council Workshop.  Despite the persistent
efforts of the project team to pursue such forums, they stirred very
little interest or participation.


   The institutional arrangements on the Cherokee reservation relating
to transportation planning are complicated both internally and
externally.  In terms of internal structures, the entire tribe is
governed by the Tribal Council, a twelve-member elected legislative
body.  The tribal council appoints and oversees the Planning Commission
and the Roads Committee, the two bodies officially responsible for
transportation planning.  The Planning Commission makes recommendations
regarding planning and street locations.  The Roads Committee recommends
where local streets in residential areas (called "driveways") should be
constructed and the Tribal Council makes the final decision.
   In addition to these bodies, other groups on the reservation play
important roles in transportation.  The Cherokee Boys Club, the private,
entrepreneurial branch of the tribe, provides school bus service on the
reservation and transports visitors from parking areas to the popular
summer outdoor drama, Unto These Hills.  It also provides charter bus
service for other organizations, and it is a major road construction
contractor on the


reservation.  Additionally, the Senior Citizens Program provides van
transportation for its clients to and from the Senior center and jobs
   That tribes are both local governments and sovereign nations makes
their role and place within the state and federal transportation funding
process rather ambiguous.  In addition, relations between the Cherokee
and the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- the organization principally
responsible for building and maintaining roads on the reservation -- are
sometimes acrimonious.  The Indian Self-Determination and Education
Assistance Act (Public Law 93-638) allows tribes to assume control over
the road construction and maintenance responsibilities of the BIA,
though the Cherokee and most other tribes often lack sufficient in-house
project management and engineering capability and, therefore, choose to
leave tribal road responsibilities with the BIA.
   Engineering experience, however, is not the only reason the BIA
retains control over reservation roads.  There is a strong perception
among the tribal and BIA officials we interviewed that BIA officials in
Washington, DC strongly prefer to fund road projects through BIA
district offices than directly through the tribes.  The net effect,
then, is that Washington "punishes" tribes for invoking the Indian Self-
Determination and Education Assistance Act by steering special projects
and surplus roads funds to BIA branch offices.  While such perceptions
may or may not be accurate, they are widely accepted by many of the
local officials we interviewed.
   There are also many problems with transportation planning that go
beyond institutional difficulties.  On many reservations, these include
a lack of local skills and training, dispersed populations, a lack of
institutions to manage transportation planning, insufficient maintenance
support, no knowledge base for planning and operating transit systems,
and lack of coordination within the tribe (8).  Collectively, according
to Crain (5), these problems require a transportation planning process
on reservations that is more advocacy-oriented and less technocratic
than in other settings.

An Institutional Mismatch?  Barriers to Comprehensive Planning on the
Cherokee Reservation.

   In most towns, cities, and counties, land use decisions and land use
planning drive local transportation planning.  Local land use control is
perhaps the most jealously guarded power of local governments in the
United States and the arena of ongoing public attention and (frequently)
conflict.  What land will be developed, when, and in what fashion is a
central concern of local governments.  In rapidly developing areas,
planners and local officials struggle to manage growth, while in
depressed areas governments seek to attract growth and investment.
   Land use planning is critical to local governments for a number of
reasons, not the least of which is financial: property tax revenues,
based on the value of privately-owned land, are normally the largest
single source of locally generated tax revenues.  Thus, to plan for
future growth and future revenues, local governments develop
comprehensive plans to guide future growth and development.  These
plans, comprised of a number of "elements," typically contain, among
others, a land use element and a transportation (or circulation)
element.  While the development of each of these elements is iterative,
the land use element ultimately drives the transportation element.  In
other words, traffic forecasts, capacity deficiencies, and plans for new
roads and public transit capacity in the transportation element are
estimated directly from plans for the scale, type, location, and timing
of new development outlined in the land use element.
   Planning on the Cherokee Reservation, however, differs substantially
from the local physical planning process outlined above.  As stated
previously, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (and all other
federally recognized Indian tribes) is both a local government and a
sovereign nation.  Where all other local governments are part of an
explicit hierarchy of towns, cities, counties, regions, states, and the
federal government, Indian tribes


are not.  In local government matters, the tribe works closely with
adjacent local and state Governments, but as a sovereign nation, the
Cherokee also have a direct, special relationship with the federal
government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
   The unique position Indian tribes hold in the governmental hierarchy
changes physical planning on the reservation in a number of important
ways.  Unlike most local jurisdictions, which are comprised of a large
array of public and privately-owned parcels, reservation lands are held
in trust for the Cherokee people by the U.S. Government in perpetuity. 
In other words, reservation lands cannot be privately held.  "Ownership"
of individual parcels take the form of "possessory holdings" that can be
transferred to enrolled members of the tribe only (9, 10).
   This land tenure policy is the foundation of Indian reservations: it
is explicitly designed to protect Indians from losing their land, even
to bankers (10).  While this property arrangement insures the continuity
of reservation lands through time, it greatly limits private development
and public taxation of reservation land.  Unlike private landowners off
the reservation, tribe members with possessory holdings cannot borrow
easily against their property equity to finance residential or
commercial development, because lenders cannot re-possess tribal lands
in the event of a default.  Further, outside investment is discouraged
because investors are often given only short-term lease holdings of
tribal lands.  Finally, no private ownership means no local property
tax; the tribal government does levy fees on commercial ventures, but
not on possessory holdings per se.
   While the federal land trust on reservations clearly insures their
long-term survival, it gives the Bureau of Indian Affairs substantial
control over land use and investment decisions.  Further, it reduces the
ability to raise capital (both by making it unavailable as security for
loans and because there are no property taxes) and thus increases long-
term tribal dependence on the federal government.  Finally, it
discourages risk-taking and provides little incentive for economic self-
sufficiency (11, 12).
   As a result, land use planning plays a far less important (and less
visible) role on the Cherokee Reservation than with most local
governments.  Small business owners play little or no role in tribal
development decisions.  Typical development design standards--lot and
building size limits, parking minimums, driveway location and size,
etc.--are non-existent on the Cherokee Reservation.  Finally, on several
other reservations, tribal authorities and concomitant local governments
(often counties) frequently disagree over the enactment of land use and
other regulations that lie within both jurisdictions (I 3,14).  And the
diminished role of land use planning, in turn, undermines long-range
transportation planning on the reservation.  The end result is a
complete absence of comprehensive, continuing physical planning on the
reservation.  A number of competent development and transportation plans
have been prepared for the reservation over the years, but without the
institutional "infrastructure" to support ongoing comprehensive physical
planning, these plans have not guided local development.  Without local
champions -- in the Chiefs Office, the Tribal Council, or the Tribal
Planning Office-comprehensive planning has given way to an incremental,
ad hoc style of development planning.
   The special relationship between the tribe and the federal government
further differentiates tribal transportation planning from that
practiced by most other local governments.  The funding of highways and
public transportation is quite complex and follows a rigid hierarchy. 
Local transportation planning typically involves funding programs at
county, regional, state, and federal levels.  Most highway funding, for
example, is administered through federally mandated Transportation
Improvement Programs (TIPs) developed by each state.  The TIP is
essentially a priority ranking of transportation projects.  From these
lists, federal highway funds are allocated through a wide variety of
programs to eligible projects provided that a specified level of state
or local funding (frequently 10 to 50 percent of total project costs) is
used to "match" the federal contribution.


   On reservations, however, some federal highway funds are allocated
directly to the tribes through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  And with
the recent passage of the ISTEA, funding of reservation roads has grown
by over 120 percent (15).  These funds, which are also organized into a
variety of programs, bypass the entire state TIP process.  In addition,
a portion of the motor fuel taxes collected on the reservation are
rebated to the tribe for local road maintenance.  In sum, transportation
development on Indian reservations is not based on comprehensive
physical planning and has remained largely outside of the cooperative,
continuing, and comprehensive transportation planning and funding
process for federal, state, and local governments.
   To be effective, transportation planners need to become familiar with
reservation institutional conditions.  This is particularly true if the
transportation planning process seeks genuine tribal participation. 
Three factors are especially important: 1) the complex and tension-
filled intergovernmental decision-making structure, 2) the practice of
viewing planning as preparation of grant applications, and 3) a history
of uncritical acceptance of outside technical assistance, with minimal
tribal input.
   Because of the many institutional actors involved, as well as the
sovereign nation status of reservations, transportation decision-making
must work within a complex and often tense structure of
intergovernmental relationships.  The primary actors, whose past
relationships typically have been stormy and their communications poor,

   -  The tribal government, including the elected Chief and Tribal
      Council, and any appointed committees addressing transportation
      issues (the Planning Board and Roads Committee on the Cherokee

   -  The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which builds and maintains
      reservation local roads with federal funding, and thus is viewed
      as both a potentially unwelcome quasi-independent decision-making
      agency operating on the reservation and a welcome source of
      outside funds for reservation projects;

   -  The state Department of Transportation (DOT), which builds and
      maintains state highways leading to and passing through the
      reservation, and, with its Board of Transportation, controls the
      allocation of federal highway funds to local projects through its
      Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) priorities.

   Other actors who play a less direct, but sometimes important role
include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); regional governmental
organizations (such as Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Regional
Planning Councils or Councils of Government); specific regional
organizations for particular tribes (such as the Tennessee Valley
Authority, Appalachian Regional Commission for the Cherokee); agencies
administering parks or other tourist facilities near the reservation
(e.g., Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway); and
service agencies providing transportation, either as their primary
mission (transit operators) or in connection with their primary mission
(senior citizens programs, tourism or economic development programs,
   Partly because of the lack of a property tax base as a stable public
revenue source, reservation planning has tended to react to immediate
funding opportunities rather than preparing long range plans.  More than
most U.S. local governments, reservations must seek outside funding each
year.  Thus, tribal planning offices ten to be project-oriented. 
Lacking an effective transportation plan, they are geared toward
applying for outside funding for transportation construction and
maintenance projects, including the state TIP, BIA's Indian Reservation
Roads program, and various federal transit funding programs.  Lacking an
effective land use plan, they also view development from a project
perspective, which makes it difficult to plan for coordinated future
land use and


transportation patterns.
   Finally, as noted above. collaborative transportation planning on
reservations is hampered by a history of unreviewed acceptance of
outside technical assistance.  With no local tradition for comprehensive
planning, this reliance on outside help hampers plan implementation.  As
a result, transportation plans prepared by outside consultants tend to
sit on the shelf, rather than be used to guide tribal decisionmaking.

Transportation Planning as Grantsmanship

   There is, in fact, active tribal planning on the Cherokee
Reservation, though not the kind of physical planning typically
practiced by local governments.  Planning activity on the reservation
consists largely of incremental, partially coordinated efforts to
attract outside investment--private investment in the form of tourist-
oriented development and public investment in the form of government
grants and allocations.  This ad hoc style of "grantsmanship planning"
has greatly hindered the implementation of comprehensive transportation
plans developed by outside planners and consultants over the years. 
Given the high levels of unemployment, the constraints on attracting
private investment, and the dependency of most tribes on federal
largesse for economic survival, it is not surprising that tribal
planning focuses so heavily on economic development and grantsmanship. 
The dearth of locally generated revenues and the instability of private
investment and federal grants from year to year make it difficult to
develop and follow long-term comprehensive plans -- transportation or
   Given both the qualified failure of previous transportation plans and
the unique institutional environment that has evolved on the
reservation, we argue in the following section that it is not
appropriate to force the use of traditional comprehensive planning where
it doesn't fit.  A better approach would be to adapt strategic planning
to the unique circumstances on the reservation.

Dependency on Outside Experts Reproduces Dependency.

   Collaborative transportation planning on reservations is hampered by
a history of unreviewed acceptance of outside technical assistance. 
Many of the planning staff on the Cherokee reservation are well-educated
and experienced, but in areas unrelated to transportation or land use
planning, such as environmental management and public administration. 
Due in part to this lack of tribal expertise in technical practice, the
Tribal Planning Office must rely extensively on outside expertise to
plan, build, and maintain the reservation transportation system.  As a
result, reservation officials have little experience with collaborative
intergovernmental decision-making, particularly for long-range,
comprehensive planning.  Thus, the transportation plans prepared by
outside consultants have tended to sit on the shelf, rather than be used
to guide tribal decisionmaking or help the tribe get its projects on the
state TIP.
   The limited transit services on the reservation are managed by the
Cherokee Boys Club and the Senior Services Center.  Highway engineering
expertise is provided primarily by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the
construction and maintenance of reservation roads and secondarily by the
North Carolina Department of Transportation for the construction and
maintenance of federal and state highways.  Transportation plans,
including the one prepared for this study, have all been the work of
outside consultants.
   Between consultants, transportation planning on the reservation falls
through the cracks.  Traffic impact studies are not required of large
new developments; there are no standards for off-street parking in


areas; and local streets (known locally as "driveways") are usually of
sub-standard design and in need of frequent repair.  Many of the
recommendations in the current plan -- such as the need for off-street
downtown parking -- were made in earlier plans as well.  But with no
staff transportation planner and no one to champion physical planning in
general or in specific plans, no institutional vehicle exists to
implement the recommendations of outside experts.  The recommendations
go unheeded, the plans gather dust, and the problems persist until
outside help is sought again.
   The tribe does attend to some transportation issues on the
reservation.  The Boys Club and Senior Center ferry clients, but no
general public transit service exists.  The BIA builds and maintains
roads and bridges under its jurisdiction and a Tribal Roads Committee
parcels out funds to construct and maintain "driveways" in residential
areas, but such work is done in the absence of any planned system of
transportation or land use.  The result is a poorly integrated system of
roads and streets, and an incomplete system of public transit.
   Finally, tribes may tend to minimize traditional comprehensive
planning practice due, in part, to the unique social structure of the
tribe.  Indian tribes are, by definition, extended families, and the
familial nature of tribal society alters civic discourse and the roles
of local governments in important ways.  The Cherokee Tribal Council,
for example, is much more likely to intervene in personal disagreements
between neighbors or between employer and employee than would most town
or city councils.  Thus, tribal officials may be not only reluctant to
make long-range plans, but also to enact and enforce development
regulations that substitute abstract rules for group decision-making. 
Because tribal leaders prefer to honor land use requests by individual
constituents, they may be wary of laws and standards that might limit
individual efforts.
   Tribal social structure, therefore, may obstruct local commitment to
comprehensive planning.  And, without local commitment to and expertise
in land use and transportation planning, reliance on outside experts,
and the discontinuity such reliance can bring, shapes transportation
planning practice on the Cherokee Reservation.

Yet Another Study...

   When queried at the close of this study, every key actor interviewed
admitted that this transportation planning effort was seen by most tribe
members as just another study by outsiders that was unlikely to benefit
the Cherokee people.  Said one tribal official: "We have been studied to
   Despite their cynicism, the interviewees were generally impressed by
the efforts of the study team to garner local input and interest, though
none were surprised by the tepid responses to the public meeting and the
formal Tribal Council presentations.  When asked what we could have done
to increase local participation, the responses were unanimous: (1)
Secure the interest and support of local leaders from the outset and (2)
avoid technical, bureaucratic language as much as possible.
   Several respondents to our concluding interviews explained that a few
influential tribe members wield considerable influence in Cherokee
society.  These local leaders, whose names came up repeatedly throughout
our study, are well-respected leaders of public opinion and should have
been contacted at the outset of the planning process.  When convinced of
the importance of transportation planning on the reservation, these
leaders become champions of the project and insure that action will be
taken on the plan after the consultants have packed up and gone home.
   None of those queried thought that the non-Indian consulting team was
necessarily a problem, though


several thought that, in such cases, garnering the support of local
leaders in advance was absolutely critical.  Several thought that Native
American transportation planners would probably contribute specialized
knowledge on Indian law and relations with the Bureau of Indian Affairs,
though none thought that Native American consultants per se would have
increased local participation.
   Finally, several of the key actors interviewed complained that the
consultants used too much technical, bureaucratic language.  "I sat
through two Advisory Committee meetings," complained one Tribal Council
member, "before I had any idea what you guys were talking about." Most
said that more clarity and specificity at the outset would have
encouraged local participation.  One suggested that slides of "good" and
"bad" land use and transportation planning be used to show local leaders
and elected officials what such a planning process could accomplish.
   These findings are consistent with similar work done on other
reservations.  Anding and Fulton (7) assess transportation needs on
Indian reservations and argue that it is necessary first to gain the
official cooperation of the tribal leaders in order to proceed because
the tribes have little patience with research that does not lead to any
real results.

The Folly of Trying to Force a Round Peg into a Square Hole

   Under the institutional conditions encountered on a reservation, it
is difficult to carry out a standard transportation planning process
collaboratively with a tribe.  As outlined above, such efforts are
plagued by past intergovernmental tensions, a tradition of grant seeking
as a substitute for long range planning, and a lack of tribal commitment
to transportation plans prepared by outside consultants.  In addition,
other likely problems are:

   -  Low priority for transportation planning, relative to immediate
      tribal issues viewed as more pressing, so that leaders will be
      reluctant to devote time, attention, and resources to plan

   -  Lack of interest in the abstract planning process itself, which
      requires progressing through sequential steps of technical
      inventory and analysis in order to make recommendations, so that
      attention focusses on the funds allocated to the planning process
      and its outputs rather than the critical intervening decisions.

   -  Absence of land use regulations, such as zoning, subdivision
      regulations, and design standards to implement plans and provide a
      continuing basis for organized development of reservation lands. 
      Instead elected officials allocate land on request for residential
      use and negotiate short-term leases for commercial use, and the
      resulting projects are often poorly designed and uncoordinated
      with little or no consideration of parking, access, or traffic.

   -  Difficulty by outside consultants and transportation planning
      bureaucrats in understanding differences between transportation
      politics on reservations and in other American communities, so
      that incorrect basic assumptions are not challenged and "standard"
      practices are -not properly adapted, until late in the planning
      process when the critical lessons have been learned by both tribal
      planners and outside consultants.

   In order to overcome these and other problems encountered on Indian
reservations, we believe it is necessary to revise and expand the
traditional transportation planning process.  Our approach seeks to fit
transportation planning more closely into the conditions of the tribal



   Transportation planning is both an art and a science.  It is an art
in that goals, objectives, problems, and issues are difficult to define,
and consensus is a challenge to achieve.  It is a science in that
established methods and techniques exist to analyze existing
transportation systems and forecast changes in the future. 
Traditionally in transportation planning, the "art" has been the
responsibility of the local planners and "science" the domain of the
outside consultants.  The role of the outside consultants, in other
words, has usually been confined to the technical, analytical side of
transportation planning.
   From our experience of preparing a transportation plan for Cherokee,
North Carolina, we emphatically believe that this traditional division
of labor between local planners and outside consultants does not and
will not work in Native American settings.  Unless there exists in-house
transportation planning expertise on the reservation and local
commitment to comprehensive planning, we suggest that an alternative,
strategic approach be adopted for transportation planning on Indian
   And given that a principal goal of the ISTEA is an effective
collaborative intergovernmental planning process, the planning approach
used must fulfill some basic requirements:

   -  A collaborative transportation planning process must be treated as
      a "new idea" that is introduced to the tribe, marketed to key
      local stakeholders, and carried out as an innovation that requires
      behavioral change to be accepted;

   -  One or more tribal leaders and staff members must be enlisted as
      "champions" of transportation planning, lending their prestige and
      status to the activity to give it a high priority on the tribal

   -  The plan must be conceived as a combination of short-range visible
      projects and long-range system improvements, in order to
      demonstrate its practicality and usefulness and to create a multi-
      year implementation program relying on various transportation
      suppliers (BIA, FHWA, state DOT, etc);

   -  The technical transportation work must be enlarged to include
      participatory methods that engage tribal leaders in all phases of
      the planning, so that dialogue is maintained throughout and tribal
      values and perspectives are respected.

   We recommend an approach that combines the traditional, time-tested
technical planning process with elements of a more strategic planning
process.  Strategic planning originated in the private sector, and has
been adapted to a number of public sector planning situations.  As
proposed by Bryson and Einsweiler (16), strategic planning involves:

   -  Issue or problem focus to deal with recognized community concerns;

   -  Participatory agenda framing and decision making by stakeholders;

   -  Strategic, near term implementation focus; and

   -  Consideration of both external and internal influences.

   The standard transportation planning approach consists of three
phases-- pre-analysis, technical analysis,


and post-analysis (3).  Each of these includes several tasks, though
typically the most effort is expended in the technical analysis tasks:

   1. Pre-analysis
      -  Problem/issue identification
      -  Goals and objectives formulation
      -  Data collection
      -  Alternatives generation

   2. Technical analysis
      -  Traffic projection modelling
      -  Deficiency assessment
         -  Capacity and level of service modelling
         -  User surveys

   3. Post-analysis
      -  Alternatives evaluation (economic and non-economic)
      -  Recommendations
      -  Implementation
      -  System monitoring

   The typical strategic planning approach consists of eight tasks (17). 
As adapted to illustrative reservation concerns, these tasks consist of

   1  Forging initial agreement to collaborate: making a plan for
      planning to which both tribal and related stakeholders are

   2. Identifying mandates: from laws such as ISTEA or the Indian Self-
      Determination and Education Assistance Act (PL 93-638);

   3  Preparing mission and values statements by stakeholders:
      attempting to include all those with claims on reservation

   4. Identifying external opportunities and threats: such as gaming
      proposals, tourism and travel trends;

   5. Identifying internal strengths and weaknesses: such as past
      transportation plans, conflicts with BIA, and the like;

   6. Agreeing on high priority, strategic issues: such as decongesting
      or increasing safety on main roads;

   7. Describing the future vision of success: such as a reservation
      where both Indian and tourist travel is multi-modal, safe,
      efficient, and pleasant.

   8. Developing strategies: practical alternatives such as lobbying for
      inclusion of tribal road improvements on state Transportation
      Improvement Program; and


   We recommend that these tasks, in combination with those of the
standard transportation planning approach, be carried out through a
series of parallel steps with the technical work feeding into the
strategic planning process.  Some steps can accomplish more than one
task; other tasks may be spread out over more than one step.  The focus
for all these steps is the "transportation system"--the combination of
physical facilities and organizations that provide transportation

   The parallel tasks in a Strategic Transportation Planning Approach
are shown in Table 5.

                                Table 5:
               Proposed Integration of Strategic Planning
             with Standard Transportation Planning Practice
                         on Indian Reservations

      Traditional Model                    Strategic Model

                                     1.  Organize for Planning
  1.  Pre-Analysis Phase             2.  Identify Mandates
                                     3.  Prepare Mission/Values
                                     4.  Analyze External Environment
  2. Technical Analysis Phase        5.  Analyze Internal Environment
                                     6.  Agree on Strategic Issues
                                     7.  Envision Future System
  3.  Post-Analysis Phase            8.  Formulate Strategies and Plan


   The techniques include both the standard technical methods of the
transportation planner and the public involvement methods of the
strategic planner.  Since transportation planning practice is well
established, we focus more on the public involvement methods which are
nicely summarized in Innovations in Public Involvement for
Transportation Planning (18).
   It is important to note here that strategic planning does not
replace, but complements the standard analytical techniques of
transportation planning, such as travel forecasting, level of service
determination, and traffic impact analysis.  Without an institutional
framework for planning -- a context to make use of such technical
analyses--the analyses become irrelevant and the plans that contain them
gather dust on the shelf.
   Since many of the strategic planning elements are related to ongoing
events, the process should not be visualized as a mechanical sequence,
but rather as a dynamic learning process in which some steps may be
repeated as new information or insights emerge.  Instead of a linear
sequence, the approach could be conceived as a strategic learning loop
(Figure 2 below) which could be entered at various points and pursued in


patterns, including going back to an earlier step if necessary.  The
significance is not in rigidly following the steps, but in engaging and
educating the stakeholders through an ongoing, participatory process
leading to a plan.
   What we advocate here is a strategic process that creates an
environment in the unique setting of the reservation where effective
transportation planning can occur.  This strategic approach radically
alters the role of the transportation planning consultant, from hired
gun to planning advocate, and from technical expert to technical expert
and process facilitator.  Our experience has convinced us that the
strategic planning approach offers an ideal vehicle to develop local
interest, promote tribal participation and control, facilitate effective
analyses, and increase implementation in the unique social and
institutional settings on Indian reservations.

Click HERE for graphic.


   An important lesson from the Cherokee case study is that tribes
frequently lack both the technical and the strategic planning skills to
carry out effective transportation planning.  This makes them dependent
on outsiders for these skills.  And this dependence reproduces
dependence through time.  The obvious solution to this cycle of
dependency is build the skills base within the tribe to make
transportation (and other, related forms of physical planning) an
ongoing part of tribal practice.  Tribal planners with transportation
planning skills can make transportation planning part of the daily
fabric of reservation activities and put it high on the tribal agenda. 
Some investment now in transportation skills building for Native
Americans will have a high future payoff in terms of much more efficient
and effective reservation transportation systems.
   To remedy the lack of technical and strategic planning skills, we
recommend that the federal government create a professional
transportation education program and market it to Indians desiring to
pursue planning careers.  The program would consist of apprenticeships
for high school students and scholarships and fellowships to university
degree programs in transportation, urban, and regional planning.
$200,000, for example, would train twelve Native American planning
fellows each year.  Selected fellows would receive mentoring for
practice-oriented degrees at both the Bachelors and Masters level. 
During the summers, they would serve internships in tribal planning and
transportation offices, as well as in state DOT and BIA offices. 
Following completion of their education programs, they would be expected
to return to the reservation for at least two years, where they would be
attached to the tribal planning office.  Finally, workshops could be
held for tribal planners and elected officials on project management and
institutional arrangements.


   Such a program would be entirely consistent with both the Indian
Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act and the Intermodal
Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and would remedy many of the
problems with transportation planning consulting on Indian reservations
by, over time, rendering them moot.



   This research was conducted under a grant from the Office of
Technology Applications of the Federal Highway Administration through
the University of North Carolina Institute of Transportation Research
and Education.  The opinions expressed herein and any errors or
omissions are the sole responsibility of the authors.

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