Suquamish tribe on quest for 'cyber sovereignty'
June 10, 2008 · Updated 5:35 PM
"SUQUAMISH-The tribe has entered the technological revolution with full force to become a cyber sovereignty to be reckoned with. The Suquamish Electronic Nation Project seeks to place the tribe on the forefront of technology, making the area and its people attractive to high tech business, at least that's what Robert Gemmell, information systems manager for the tribe, hopes for the project's future. When this first came up there were some people who wondered if it was culturally appropriate, he said. To that he responded, Non-natives did not bring lightning with them. All it is is a manipulation of lightning, Gemmell said. Harnessing technology will also bring forth a new job market in Suquamish, Gemmell said. In 1998 the Indian Service Population and Labor Force Estimate Report said that of the more than 1,100 employed Native Americans on the Port Madison Reservation, 60 percent are still below the poverty line. In contrast, a few miles away Seattle has become a hub for high tech business and has more opportunities for employment than employees. The goal of the program is to build an network infrastructure allowing tribal members to telecommute for these companies and stopping the exodus of tribal members to other communities. The project will include: * A training facility * A firewall or password protected internal web site * A communications tower * Modern computers and software * Skills development The project is estimated to cost about $1.5 million to complete and the tribe is looking at grants and other funding resources. Some of the Suquamish Nation project has been completed or is near completion. The Suquamish Learning Center located downtown has been open for about a year and houses 20 workstations. The learning center offers onsite technology training as well as distance learning courses in web site development, graphic design programs, computer programming languages and basic computer skills. Bringing people up to speed on the advances in technology is a large challenge for the project, Gemmell said. Recently, however, 90 computers were donated to the tribe and are being delivered to tribal members' homes. By next summer he hopes to have a high speed internet connect up and running from a communications tower planned for the area. Pending the Federal Communication Commission Approval a low-watt radio signal would be transmitted from the tower, giving the community another forum. The plan also seeks to create a virtual longhouse a technology driven version of the traditional gathering place. A three-dimensional graphics version of the long house would be available on a reservationwide intranet where tribal members could exchange ideas. "