• Currently Native American reservations are unable to develop their vast energy resources due to poorly-defined property rights. If policies were different and tribes could earn a 5% return on their energy resources, Native Americans would have additional income of $75 billion per year, and U.S. GDP would increase by as much as 0.5% per year. Thus, regulations on American Indian energy reserves impose a huge cost on the rightful owners of those reserves and on economic growth.
• Indian reservations contain almost 30% of the nation’s coal reserves west of the Mississippi, 50% of potential uranium reserves, and 20% of known oil and gas reserves— resources worth nearly $1.5 trillion, or $1.5 million per tribal member.
• Yet 86% of Indian lands with energy or mineral potential remain undeveloped because of Federal control of reservations that keeps Indians from fully capitalizing on their natural resources if they desire.
• Meanwhile, most American Indians live in poverty, with per capita income of $16,645 (compared to $27,334 for the U.S. population as a whole) and unemployment rates as high as 78% on some reservations.
• As long as tribes and individual Indians are denied the right to control their own land and resources, they will remain islands of poverty in a sea of prosperity. If tribes and individual Indians had the same rights and institutions as those living outside of reservations, they could unlock the tremendous wealth of their lands.
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