Written by Lindsay Mackenzie
Native American communities don’t want to rely on third parties for tech solutions — they want to create their own, a speaker said at a recent Tech Native conference.
By raising awareness of how technology can support Indigenous communities, as well as supporting education and training for individuals interested in pursuing careers in technology, the Indigenous Collective in Technology hopes to create a community of Indigenous software engineers, network and cybersecurity experts, and other technologists. Pipeline, the speaker said at the virtual event. Indigenous tech member Adam Recvlohe, who was present at the meeting on Friday, said outside vendors and big tech companies did not understand the values and needs of Indigenous communities.
“We want to be able to create technology for ourselves and ourselves without any outside help,” Recvlohe said. “It puts our sovereignty first.”
Indigenous people have the skills, experience and cultural knowledge to create technologies that work for their communities, Recvlohe said. To further support their education and training, Natives in Tech has established a $50,000 scholarship fund for those interested in tech to attend coding boot camps. Recvlohe said it will continue to expand summer programs for high school students interested in tech.
Natives in Tech started as a Slack group in 2017 and has developed more than 40 open source technology projects, including a repository for homegrown businesses, an Indigenous emoji (or Indigemoji) project, and an initiative to raise awareness about disappearances and killings Aboriginal women.
Over the next year, the collective plans to increase participation and write about more technical topics relevant to Indigenous communities, such as exploring why some tribal governments use .org domains instead of .gov, and what it says about their status, Recvlohe said .
In addition to strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities, governments and organizations that reflect its values, the Natives in Tech partnership will continue to call out organizations that “destroy our communities,” such as the Apache Software Foundation, which has refused to change its name, Recvlohe said.
The collective also wants to create a committee that would create local technical standards and develop local open-source software licenses that would protect the work of local creators but still make it accessible to others, he said.
“We’re not just consumers — we need to be producers so we can see technology that reflects who we are,” Recvlohe said.