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March 04, 2011

Do Indians today have access to the internet?

Recently in the museum I was asked the question, “Do Indians have the Internet?” My answer, “Some do, but most don’t.” Offering an example, “My parents, aunts, uncles, and many of their friends don’t own a computer. If they did, they probably wouldn’t know how to turn it on or navigate.” To me this is alarming because they are middle-income Americans who live in the city—people who are considered urban Indians.

Global information technology is redefining itself each year at an increasingly faster pace. American Indians and Alaska Native Communities are being disproportionally left behind this in the race. Telecommunications access in Indian Country falls far below the national average. Even basic telephone service may be nonexistent in some Indian communities.

I regard economic disparity as the biggest factor in not owning a computer. When you have to decide between feeding a family and purchasing a computer, the choice becomes obvious. These disparities carry on to the next level of tribal governments.  If a tribe has to worry about meeting the basic health, education, and welfare needs of its members, upgrades in telecommunications can seem like a luxury.

According to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Consumer Facts, “American Indian and Alaska Native communities, on average, have the lowest reported telephone subscribership levels in the country.” The FCC estimates that fewer than 10 percent of American Indians have high-speed Internet connections. The Commission has recognized that certain Indian reservations and tribal lands remain underserved, with some areas having no service at all. http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/tribalfactsheet.html

Telecommunications capability is crucial to public and tribal safety. According to a recent report broadcast on the National Public Radio (NPR) program All Things Considered, “The Karuk tribe [in Northern California] has used the limited federal funds already available to connect a local health clinic, the public schools, and a community center. . . . The bandwidth is limited because access is provided by two special land lines known as T1s. They cost the tribe $1,300 a month.” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128004928 Indian communities in Arizona, Alaska, South Dakota, Nevada, and Montana face similar problems.

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission Indian Telecommunications Initiatives (FCC/ITI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service (USDA/RUS), and the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (DOC/NTIA) have begun to address Native disparities through telecommunications initiatives, tribal outreach, and project grants.

Until disparities improve, many Native people will still rely on the “moccasin telegraph” (a.k.a. word of mouth) as the most prevalent means of communication in Indian communities.

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Comments

Thanks so much for this informative article. I can honestly say as a non-native, that social media has been very important to my art research. I have been able to share my work with many Indigenous artists, scholars, even museum directors. Their willingness to comment and contribute to my online project has advanced the research and added to my personal knowledge of some aspects of American Indian culture.

Cross-cultural communications is so important and I hope the more isolated and impoverished American Indian communities find the resources to get 'connected.'
Regards,

Noah G. Hoffman
Director
Mark Rothko Southwest History Project

Too bad economic disparity is preventing so many people from essential modern technology such as the internet. Great post, thanks for sharing.

Such a very informative blog. I search these visual sources on internet but i found it on your site. thanks for sharing your information with us....

Great post I must say. Simple but yet interesting and engaging. Keep up a good work!

Thank you to tell us so much useful information. So nice sharing. I’m glad to read it.

I believe they do have access because there are no such place in the world without internet connection.

I enjoy what you guys tend to be up too. This sort of clever work and exposure! Keep up the wonderful works guys I've included you guys to our blogroll.

Best Regards

It's strange to think that history would intersect with native americans and the internet. Excellent article.
J.R. Isaksen

hanks so much for this informative article. I can honestly say as a non-native, that social media has been very important to my art research. I have been able to share my work with many Indigenous artists, scholars, even museum directors. Their willingness to comment and contribute to my online project has advanced the research and added to my personal knowledge of some aspects of American Indian culture.

Cross-cultural communications is so important and I hope the more isolated and impoverished American Indian communities find the resources to get 'connected.'

I'm originally from South Dakota and am Part Cheyenne Sioux Indian. I'm a tribe member too. Personally, going through college and doing it the hard way is amenable, but truthfully, these people need a larger income now! The internet could be a great gateway for people a long way from a big college and with just a little education, could have their own Internet Businessinternet business! Thanks for Sharing!

Too bad economic disparity is preventing so many people from essential modern technology such as the internet. I believe they do have access because there are no such place in the world without internet connection. http://omegaseo.co

Too bad economic disparity is preventing so many people from essential modern technology such as the internet. Great post, thanks for sharing.

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