Tribal Ethics and Storytelling Offer Insights into Today’s Business Practices

January 31, 2012, by Grace Ann Rosile, Associate Professor, Department of Management, via email

Dr. Grace Ann Rosile

Dr. Grace Ann Rosile

Dr. Grace Ann Rosile’s dining room currently houses over 100 books and DVDs on tribal philosophy, ethics, and business and trading practices. Her dream is that these valuable resources will one day have their own place in NMSU’s College of Business. She even has a name for this place: the American Indian Business Ethics and Tribal Traditions Educational Resource Center (AI-BETTER-Center).

Over five years ago, Dr. Rosile had been asked to adapt the core course Management 309 Human Behavior in Organizations for the department’s Tribal Management program. Rosile developed five new instructional modules for the class. These modules draw upon traditional tribal values and teachings, and emphasize diversity and community building styles of communication, conflict handling, decision making, and leadership.

Tribal teachings incorporate storytelling. Rosile discovered a strong connection between indigenous storytelling forms and husband David M. Boje’s work on storytelling and in 2007 they collaborated on a conference presentation in Acoma, New Mexico. NMSU Native American business students Michael Ray and Paul McHorse, along with NMSU Management doctoral student Joe Gladstone, accompanied them to the conference and assisted with the presentation.

Navajo Peacemaking Demonstration, brochure cover (April 8, 2008) (Submitted photo)

Navajo Peacemaking Demonstration, brochure cover (April 8, 2008) (Submitted photo)

While at Acoma, Rosile heard about a unique Navajo approach to conflict-handling based on reconciliation. In April 2008 Rosile brought a group of four Navajo Nation Peacemakers to campus for a demonstration of their process. The four Peacemakers were both enlightening and emotionally moving in their dedication to the principles of restoring peace, harmony, and balance to people in tribal communities. With the support of a Sloan Foundation “Digital Pathways” grant, Rosile produced a 20-minute DVD on Navajo Peacemaking.

Understanding the Native American tribal perspective on business practices necessarily involves understanding indigenous philosophy and ethics, oriented towards care for Mother Earth and strong ties within tribal communities. We see our planet shrinking through technology, and the “global village” becoming more of a reality each day. These changes bring our contemporary western societies closer to the traditional indigenous tribal society model.

Today, both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples face the need to change business practices while maintaining important cultural values. In this regard, we can benefit from each other’s perspectives and experiences.

During 2011, Rosile and Boje, along with Dr. Don Pepion (NMSU Department of Anthropology, and former Director of NMSU’s Native American Studies, and Joe Gladstone (Ph.D. candidate studying Native American entrepreneurs) were named Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Fellows. Their project was to uncover tribal business-related values from literature and personal interviews, and propose a tribal code of business ethics. They found striking similarities between the Daniels principles of business ethics, with its emphasis on building relationships and personal integrity, and tribal perspectives on business ethics.

In the past five years, Rosile and her colleagues have had eight presentations and/or publications relating to indigenous philosophy and storytelling, and tribal business ethics.

Publications and Presentations on Tribal Values and Ethics

  • 2012. Rosile, G.A. and Boje, D. M. Native American Indians: An Antenarrative Analysis of Storytelling Across Cultures. in Marchiore, M. (ed.), Faces of Organizational Culture and Communication, Vol. 3, Routledge (forthcoming).
  • 2012. Rosile, G.A., D. Pepion, D.M. Boje, and J. Gladstone. Daniels Principles of Business Ethics for Tribal Ethics: Using Indigenous Methods of Storytelling and Pedagogy to Convey Moral Principles. Presented January 5, 2012, at the NMSU Daniels Fund Teaching Business Ethics Workshop.
  • 2011. Rosile, G. A., Boardman, C. Antenarrative Ethics of Native American Indian Trading. Proceedings of the Standing Conference for Management and Organizational Inquiry, Philadelphia, PA, April 16-18, 2011.
  • 2008. Rosile, G.A. (Editor/Producer). Navajo Nation Peacemaking Program Demonstration with Roger Begaye, Darlene Brown, Stephen Klee, Nathan Kilgore, Sr., and Grace Ann Rosile. April 17, 2008. NMSU Media Productions (2008) with Teaching Notes. Available from NMSU College of Business Management Department. Contact 575-532-1693 or
  • 2008. Rosile, G. A., D.M. Boje, and J. Gladstone. Incorporating Navajo Peacemaking and Tribal Content in Business Classes to Attract Tribal Students. Presented at the Governor’s Summit on Higher Education, Albuquerque, NM, Oct. 29-31, 2008. Proceedings Paper available on New Mexico Higher Education website at; select Summit 08, then Summit Presentations, or go directly to
  • 2008. Rosile, G.A. Excess of History: Shaping Western Business Education for American Indian Tribes. Proceedings of the Standing Conference for Management and Organization Inquiry: The Excess of History. Philadelphia, PA, March 27-29, 2008.
  • 2008. Boje, D.M., G.A. Rosile, J. Gladstone, and K. TwoTrees. Natives Questioning Western Narrative Ways. ODC division Panel Presentation at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Anaheim, CA, August 10-13, 2008.
  • 2007. Rosile, G. A., and Boje, D. M. Telling indigenous entrepreneurship success stories to develop wisdom. Conference Fostering Indigenous Business and Entrepreneurship in the Americas (FIBEA), Acoma, New Mexico.

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