In winter 2003, NCAI secured seed funding for a national tribal research and policy center that focused solely on issues facing tribal communities. Developed under an advisory council of tribal leaders, Native scholars, tribal organization heads, regional Indian policy center directors, private sector researchers, and state policymakers, this tribally-driven consortium of existing research bodies and primary researchers was equipped to gather and assess data on conditions and trends in Indian Country, and support and inform the policy development efforts of tribal leaders, tribal organizations, Congress, the Administration, and state governments with objective data and analysis.  Through this work, the NCAI Policy Research Center provides tools necessary to inform public policy debates with meaningful data and assist in shifting the discourse in Native policy from a problem-focused approach to truly proactive, future-thinking strategy development.

The Center develops, coordinates, and disseminates policy-focused research.  It applies this body of work to Native policy issues on the horizon of federal, state, and tribal policymaking.   The Center operates within the National Congress of American Indians, whose membership’s priorities both contribute to the development of the Center’s research agenda as well as benefit from the direct dissemination of policy research findings. It is up to the elected tribal leaders from their respective communities and the national tribal organizations that serve them to apply the research findings, come to consensus on positions where possible, and move their advocacy agenda forward. 

In 2022, the NCAI Policy Research Center joined the new NCAI Sovereignty Institute as a part of NCAI's renewed vision that "goes beyond self-determination." Read the press release here.