Pathways to Prosperity is the product of a partnership between the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Northwest Area Foundation. The partnership began in 2003, when staff of the Foundation visited the Reservation to determine whether our Tribe had the will and the potential to launch a major effort to reduce poverty that afflicts more than one-third of our Tribal members. This Plan is the culmination of those efforts.
Through historic events we shall not belabor, the Chippewa way of life was changed. Where once our heartland was measured in millions of acres, it is now little more than two townships, surrounded by lands once ours, now occupied by others with different histories and traditions. So we must become pathfinders once again, not to find our way to new lands, but to find a way to provide for future generations on the land that is now our home.
The Northwest Area Foundation has become our partner in that exploration. With this help and encouragement, we have been able to search for new "Pathways to Prosperity" for our community. For eighteen months, more than 600 Tribal members shared frustrations, values, ideas and aspirations. In more than fifty meetings and countless hours of planning, we have sighted through data, created strategies, and debated priorities.
In that process we recognized that we have many challenges: our poverty rate stands at thirty-eight percent; our employment base is eroding as some of our existing economic engines are faltering; our children are threatened by the scourge of methamphetamines; many of our people live in overcrowded and substandard housing because there are simply not enough homes to meet the needs of our steadily growing population. But our community also has extraordinary assets: our people are youthful, vigorous, imaginative, gifted in the arts, and increasingly well educated. They hold skills waiting to be employed for the common good. Our lands, though limited in scale, are unusually beautiful. They hold untapped resources, from their potential to attract tourists, to the possibility that we may soon capture the power of the wind and geothermal power of the land itself.