American Internet Opportunities
Despite centuries of hardship and mistreatment, over 700 Native American and Alaskan Native tribes today continue
their determined tradition of sustainable community and culture. While many hardships continue, there are major
federal initiatives to connect all tribal schools to the Internet, the costs for computer equipment are dropping
dramatically, and new more affordable high-speed two-way Internet satellite dishes have become available.
It would appear that Native Americans and Alaskan Natives will be among the first 1 % of the world’s indigenous
peoples to have the opportunity to assess what Internet access can mean for traditional cultures, both positively
The echoes of the Native American history of building strong sustainable communities, coupled with the newfound
power of the Internet, suggests the inevitability that model self-empowered Native American communities will soon
- Communities who have learned how to use the Internet to learn whatever is necessary
to meet their needs at any time.
- Communities who have learned to use the Internet to sustain and strengthen kinship
- Communities who have learned if they all share what each citizen learns, then they
all have access to all their knowledge.
- Communities who have learned there are no limits to the knowledge, encouragement and
goodwill that can be shared online with anyone, anywhere.
- Communities who have learned to understand the synergy of global citizenship, and
traditional culture, that the Internet makes possible.
Is there a cultural responsibility that comes with such awesome knowledge and power?
As new Internet satellite and wireless solutions make it possible for over 15,000 cultures worldwide to have access
to Internet’s capabilities, will there be culturally appropriate online teaching that addresses both the risks,
as well as the benefits to traditional culture? Where would this come from, and who will provide such teachings?
It is becoming possible for Native American communities to create a cottage industry teaching other cultures worldwide
what Native Americans have learned about the highest levels of Internet benefit to traditional culture, as well
as the darkest risks!
The electronic wind of the Internet will soon be upon all of us worldwide, and will certainly bring many changes.
What Native Americans learn today, and take action to do tomorrow, may well determine the nature of these changes
to the world’s indigenous cultures. There is much at risk and time is short to understand what’s at stake.
The Great White Media
Our advertising intensive media-centric dominant culture emphasizes the instant gratification of the individual,
not the building of community. Such emphasis has brought us our modern divorce rates, a diminishing sense of community,
and a disinclination to contribute meaningfully to our communities.
AOL presents a view of the Internet as happy chat and shopping medium populated by contented urban and suburbanites.
‘AOL has a real sense of community’ we hear on TV commercials…with 30 million subscribers. Many of these subscribers
don’t know they are not really on the full Internet when on AOL but on a subset of the Internet which AOL might
well prefer they never leave. We hear from AOL no message of dramatic self-empowerment possibilities!
While big business views citizens as consumers of their top-down content, the Internet’s greatest potential is
that citizens can be both consumers and producers. The range of what citizens can now do for themselves is historically
unprecedented, yet there are few vocal champions sharing this message.
The Internet offers to communities who understand the potential, unlimited self-empowerment opportunities through
access to educational and Ecommerce opportunities, certainly, but to something profoundly greater; the opportunity
to build new forms of relationships and levels of collaborative trust and sharing of knowledge never before possible,
Cisco’s commercials tout the mantra "Are You Ready?" to sell their wired and wireless connectivity, but
they have not proven they are ready to address how individuals and communities can best learn Internet self-empowerment
and community-building Internet applications.
It may well prove that such knowledge cannot come from the top-down, but only from the bottom-up. This is something
we must give to ourselves, and to each other. We must assess these new tools, and quickly, to determine whether
they can prevent disastrous impacts on indigenous peoples amid a rapidly changing global economy, and to understand
what power for Native Sovereignty they might hold.
With the convenience and global reach of the Internet, not only can existing communities be strengthened by developing
greater collaborative capacity within their members, but also by tapping into online communities of interest where
vast expertise is freely available. Creating new online communities holds the opportunity to create new cultures
of empowered trust and sharing.
- Community is those to which we give our time.
- Community is the sum of what we give to each other.
There exists unheralded opportunities for people to help people through the Internet,
a message muffled by the media blitzes of big business. But, if you listen carefully, there's an echo in the electronic
wind. An echo of the determination to do what must be done to continue to survive as Native communities.
There exists unheralded opportunities for people to help people through the Internet, a message muffled by the
media blitzes of big business. But, if you listen carefully, there’s an echo in the electronic wind. An echo of
the determination to do what must be done to continue to survive as Native communities.
Will Native Americans and Alaskan Natives lead in teaching the world how the profound capabilities of the Internet
can strengthen the self-sufficiency of communities? Its just a matter of who and when.
May the vision ride on fast ponies!