indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Digital divide still an issue for Indian Country
FRIDAY, MAY 23, 2003

Tribal leaders and representatives urged a Senate committee on Thursday not to leave Indian Country behind when it comes to telecommunications.

With rates of telephone service trailing the rest of the population and Internet access far below the national average, witnesses called for additional funding, changes in federal law and full recognition of tribal sovereignty. "We know our needs, we know our numbers, we know ourselves," testified Cora Whiting Hildebrand, a council member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.

Tribal experts testified about the gains they have made in recent years. By entering into private, public and tribal partnerships, they said they have begun to bridge the digital divide in Indian Country.

The Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association, which represents 19 tribes, launched its "digital village" project in 2001 with the help of three-year $5 million grant from Hewlett-Packard. Denis Turner, executive director of the organization, said it has boosted attendance rates for tribal children to 99 percent. This year, all Indian high school graduates in San Diego County will receive a laptop computer with cutting-edge wireless Internet capabilities.

"That's very tangible," Turner told the committee. "It shows that our kids are learning the system that all Indian kids throughout Indian Country need to learn."

Valerie Fast-Horse, who directs information services for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, said tribes in the Pacific Northwest have banded together to improve technology for their people. The Makah Nation, the most remote in the region, will be able to provide high-speed Internet access for $25 a month, she said, a highly competitive rate when compared to similar services in urban areas.

On the Pine Ridge Reservation, Hildebrand recounted major improvements that have have been seen in the past 18 months alone. Telephone usage has nearly doubled because a wireless company brought service to the tribe, she said.

The service was possible due to an October 2001 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The agency pre-empted the state of South Dakota in order to authorize an agreement between the tribe and Western Wireless Corporation, a private company that submitted to tribal regulatory authority.

But the FCC needs additional direction to make these kinds of projects a reality, said Madonna Peltier Yawakie, president of Turtle Island Communications, a technology firm based on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. She called on Congress to make changes in federal law that will recognize full tribal sovereignty over non-Indian activities.

Currently, FCC engages in a legal analysis to determine whether tribes have regulatory authority, an often-lengthy process. Last year, for example, the commission refused to recognize the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe's sovereignty after an eight-year dispute between the tribe and South Dakota.

That isn't the only roadblock, witnesses said. Federal funding is in jeopardy because the Bush administration is cutting technology programs that have benefited tribes.

The fiscal year 2004 budget proposes to eliminate the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which has provided $17.5 million to tribes in recent years. "The president's budget reflects the administration's belief that the program's mission has been fulfilled," said associate administrator Kelly Klegar Levy.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) questioned the cuts in light of the significant needs in Indian Country. "I'm glad we are all saying we're going to do our best but at the same time," he said, "we provide zero dollars."

Without adequate technology, Hilda Gay Legg, administrator for the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service, said tribes will be left behind. "This lack of telecommunications infrastructure contributes to high unemployment, depressed economic conditions, and reduced opportunities and medical care," she testified.

In March, the RUS awarded $20 million in high-speed technology grants. Of the amount, more than $8 million went to American Indian and Alaska Native projects, said Legg.

"Telecommunications is not just a matter of luxury," noted Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). "It's not just a matter of economic opportunity, it's a matter of public safety."

Relevant Documents:
Witness List (May 22, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Indian Initiatives, FCC - http://www.fcc.gov/indians
The Digital Divide Network - http://www.digitaldividenetwork.org
Rural Utilities Service, USDA - http://www.usda.gov/rus
National Telecommunications and Information Administration - http://www.ntia.doc.gov
Southern California Tribal Digital Village - http://www.sctdv.net

Related Stories:
FCC report shows rise in telephone service (05/13)
FCC denies S.D. tribe's telephone bid (08/30)
New FCC chair raises digital divide doubts (2/7)
Budget bill limits reach of low-power radio (12/19)
Technology tour winds up (10/23)
Colleges receive recycled equipment (10/19)
Indian Country part of technology tour (10/18)
Indians left out of digital divide (10/17)
FCC embraces sovereignty (06/09)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Tribes ask Obama to deny Keystone XL permit (1/28)
Native Sun News: Native youth take stand against Keystone bid (1/28)
Tara Houska: Respect treaties and reject Keystone XL Pipeline (1/28)
Mark Trahant: Obama administration steps up for environment (1/28)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds first meeting & hearing (1/28)
House committee won't restore Indian and Alaska Native panel (1/28)
Opinion: Affordable Care Act offers behavorial health services (1/28)
Sami Jo Difuntorum: Support needed for Indian housing update (1/28)
Albert Bender: Stop glorification of Indian killer Andrew Jackson (1/28)
Amanda Blackhorse: Navajo leader defends racist NFL mascot (1/28)
Megan Red Shirt-Shaw: Our kids should be able to go anywhere (1/28)
Police probe racist treatment of Oglala youth at hockey game (1/28)
College basketball player proud to serve as Native role model (1/28)
Auburn Community buys stake in rock music festival company (1/28)
Former Pueblo leader ready to change plea in $3.6M theft case (1/28)
Young member of Meskwaki Tribe pleads guilty in murder case (1/28)
Mississippi Choctaws to debut casino after $70M in renovations (1/28)
Catawba Nation waits for BIA decision on off-reservation casino (1/28)
Member of Chehalis Tribe working on $40M expansion of casino (1/28)
Opinion: Decision on Menominee Nation casino makes no sense (1/28)
Editorial: Approve off-reservation casino for Ho-Chunk Nation (1/28)
Native Sun News: Chair of Lower Brule Sioux Tribe blasts report (1/27)
Native Sun News: Lummi Nation eyes halt to coal export project (1/27)
House Natural Resources Committee set to hold first meeting (1/27)
First-ever conference to focus on marijuana in Indian Country (1/27)
Fort Peck Tribes moving towards full legalization of marijuana (1/27)
8th Circuit rules against Indian inmate in religious rights case (1/27)
Jennifer Denetdale: Film glosses over violence in border towns (1/27)
Isadore Boni: An Apache AIDS survivor completes first marathon (1/27)
Osage Nation expects to see $7.4M in Cobell consolidation offers (1/27)
The Atlantic: Native people wary of DNA tests and genetic studies (1/27)
Morongo Band to debut first tribally-owned Taco Bell next week (1/27)
County files appeal over Chumash Tribe land-into-trust decision (1/27)
City leaders to work closely with Shakopee Tribe on road project (1/27)
Miccosukee Tribe wins decision in dispute over fees paid to court (1/27)
Senate Democrats delay vote on Keystone XL Pipeline measure (1/27)
Editorial: Wildlife refuge in Alaska deserves stronger protections (1/27)
BIA questions provision in compact for some New Mexico tribes (1/27)
Seminole Tribe still interested in opening casino in Atlantic City (1/27)
Ho-Chunk Nation's gaming compact authorizes another facility (1/27)
Shoshone-Bannock Tribes name executive for gaming operation (1/27)
Editorial: Presidential politics derailed off-reservation casino bid (1/27)
Native Sun News: North Dakota takes on impacts of energy boom (1/26)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux man calls on US to honor its word (1/26)
GOP leader outlines agenda for Senate Indian Affairs Committee (1/26)
Supreme Court orders another decision in Indian inmates' case (1/26)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.