This week, Native Americans from across the region and beyond gathered at the University of Oregon for its first Tribal Broadband Bootcamp.
At the Ford Alumni Center, about 50 people sat in a dark room filled with gear, headsets and equipment to watch multimedia presentations on network development, financing, cable crimping and splicing.
Matthew Ballard is from the Shinnecock Indian Nation, based on Long Island, New York. Generally referred to as “Mr. Fixit,” he traveled nearly 3,000 miles to witness this event. According to Ballard, historically, Indigenous people have been left behind in technology initiatives, hampering many essential tasks.
“Basic things like paying bills, interacting with our governments, being able to start new businesses and reach our customers,” Ballard told KLCC. “So it’s important that the tribes are here to stay on top of technology and make sure we don’t fall further and further behind.”
Matthew Rantanen is a Cree tribal member and Chief Technology Officer for the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association. He is also the boot camp organizer who started by inviting people to his house when COVID disrupted many earlier plans.
Looking across the room full of attendees, Rantanen says he’s pleased with how this UO bootcamp went.
“Our biggest goal is to bring people together because they become a human network, right? We talk about broadband networks, but now we have a human network of people they can rely on for resources, troubleshooting and such, and they know they’re not doing it alone.
The pandemic has particularly spurred the broadband needs of tribes since it arrived in Oregon in 2020.
Jason Younker is the Chief of the Coquille Tribe and serves as Assistant Vice President of the OU and Advisor to the President on Sovereignty and Government-to-Government Relations.
“If all you think about is telemedicine, or if there’s a wildfire and your connectivity is down, then you’re extremely vulnerable. Education is compulsory. So when a pandemic comes, you need to have that connectivity. »
The Oregon Broadband Office says federal funds will soon be available through the bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021. Each state is expected to get at least $1 billion for rural and tribal broadband.
Funding for OU’s Tribal Broadband Bootcamp includes support from the Oregon Broadband Office, OU’s Network Startup Research Center, Link Oregon, Burns Paiute Tribe, Tribal Digital Village Network, and First Nations Developmental Institute.
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