Written by Lindsay McKenzie
Native American communities don’t want to rely on third parties for technology solutions — they want to create their own, said speakers at a recent Natives in Tech conference.
By raising awareness of how technology can support native communities, as well as supporting the education and training of those interested in tech careers, the Natives in Tech collective seeks to build a pipeline of native software engineers, networking and cybersecurity professionals, and others build technologists. Speakers said during the virtual event. Outside vendors and big tech companies don’t understand the values and needs of indigenous communities, said Adam Recvlohe, a Natives in Tech member who held a session Friday.
“We want to be able to develop technology ourselves and for ourselves and not need outside help,” Recvlohe said. “That puts our sovereignty in the foreground.”
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 operates a $50,000 scholarship fund for those interested in technology to attend a coding boot camp. Recvlohe said it will continue to expand the summer program for high schoolers interested in technology.
Natives in Tech, which started as a Slack group in 2017, has developed more than 40 open-source tech projects, including a collection of native-owned companies, an indigenous emoji or indigemoji project, and an initiative to raise awareness of the missing and murdered indigenous women.
Over the coming year, the collective plans to ramp up its outreach efforts and write more on technical issues relevant to Indigenous communities, Z said.
In addition to strengthening ties with Indigenous communities, governments, and organizations that reflect their values, Natives in Tech Cooperation will continue to call out organizations that are “undermining our communities,” such as the Apache Software Foundation, which has resisted calls to give its name to change, said Recvlohe.
He said the collective also wants to create committees that create Native Tech standards and develop an Indigenous open-source software license that protects the work of Native creators but still makes it accessible to others.
“We’re not just consumers — we have to be producers so that we see technology that reflects who we are,” Recvlohe said.