Posted to the Ethnos Project by on May 15th, 2011

Fourteen years ago, Cultural Survival Quarterly published an issue focused on the Internet and Indigenous groups. The pieces are introduced below with links to the articles in full. It is interesting to see how many of the concerns and issues explored still persist. If you haven’t heard of Cultural Survival, check out the information below and be sure to visit their website.

Use of Internet Communication Among the Sami People

Authors: Aanta and Forsgren

The Saemieh, hereafter referred as to as Sami, are the indigenous population of the Scandinavian Peninsula in Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Although Samis are best known for their reindeer husbandry, a large number of Samis lived in a hunter-gather economy until the 16th century. The Samis are still considered one people even after the diversification of their languages and the development of subcultures before roads and telecommunications were developed.


The Internet and Indigenous Groups

Authors: David and Maybury-Lewis

One of the most enduring myths about indigenous peoples is that they wish to isolate themselves from the rest of the world in order to cling to archaic ways of life. This stereotype portrays them as misfits who cannot adjust to modern life and suits those who wish to see indigenous cultures vanish. If that were true, then the best thing for indigenous peoples would be to abandon their traditional cultures and blend as individuals into the society of whichever state claims jurisdiction over them. But it is not true.


Standing Stones in Cyberspace: The Oneida Indian Nation’s Territory on the Web

Authors: Jean Armour and Polly

Nestled among the old green hills of central New York lies a tiny sovereign nation. Most cars simply speed by it, but if you slow down, you’ll hear the noisy Canadian geese overhead, flapping their way back south for the winter. There’s a smell of woodsmoke and sweetgrass as you walk up the wide plank steps of the cultural center, named Shako:Wi: or ‘He Gives.’


Return of the Indian: Conquest and Revival in the Americas

Authors: Cahn and Peter S.

From first contact with indigenous Americans, Europeans did not agree how to treat them. As early as 1550, Bartolomé de las Casas used his ecclesiastical power to plead for the natives’ natural rights to freedom and self-government. Though las Casas managed to persuade the King, the distant monarch was not able to implement the enlightened policies. After five centuries of the colonial legacy, the debate over indigenous peoples in the Americas continues.


Plants and Animals in the Life of the Kuna

Authors: Derek A. and Smith

The Kuna of eastern Panama are renowned for successfully combating external threats that plague indigenous groups throughout the humid neotropics. For decades they have been stewards of their own semiautonomous homeland, Kuna Yala. Most live on the San Blas Islands that dot the waters of the Caribbean, traveling by canoe to farm, hunt, and harvest plant products in the rain forests that blanket the mainland. Although the Kuna have established a large degree of local control over their lands, internal pressures imperil their resources and their cultural identity.


NOTES from the FIELD: Resurrecting African Music and Dance

Authors: Doris and Green

Each time a Griot, Jaly, or Ayan (keepers of African oral traditions) dies, they literally take libraries of African music and dance to the grave where it is entombed and lost to the world forever. Since the music and dance of Africa is largely an oral tradition that is verbally passed down from one generation to the next, sheet music is not available. Younger generations of Africans no longer practice or know the traditional music and dance of their ancestors, therefore, African music and dance is an endangered species.


Latin America: The Internet and Indigenous Texts

Authors: Becker, Guillermo and Marc; Delgado-P.

In an age of global communication and computer technology, indigenous peoples have slowly gained access to electronic communication. With all of the hype surrounding cyberspace and hyperspaces as we enter a new millennium, we need to examine how indigenous peoples use and are impacted by this technology. Is there still a possibility that marginalized indigenous territories within Latin America are successfully and effectively utilizing this technology to make their voices heard?


Indigo Girls Honor the Earth

Authors: Danielle M. and Lazore

The Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, recently wound up their 1997 Honor the Earth tour. Their first stop was at the St. Regis Mohawk community of Akwesasne located on the borders of Quebec, Ontario, and New York state. The Indigo Girls performance followed talks by key Mohawk organizers Katsi Cook, Winona LaDuke, and John Trudell. Winona LaDuke addressed the native connection to the environment and explained to the audience the meaning of the tour.


Burma: Constructive Engagement in Cyberspace?

Authors: Christina and Fink

As one of the few countries in the world still lacking direct Internet access, Burma is a place where propaganda and rumors abound and hard facts remain elusive. The ruling military junta which renamed the country ‘Myanmar,’ is bent on silencing democracy activists and subjugating autonomy-minded ethnic minority groups. With non-Burmans comprising almost half the population of Burma, ethnic minority political organizations have demanded a federal state structure or outright independence.

Assyrians: “3,000 Years of History, Yet the Internet is Our Only Home”

Authors: Albert and Gabrial

Assyrians started their immigration to the U.S. and Europe more than 100 years ago. The Assyrians of today number more than five million and are the direct descendants of the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian empires. Immigrants from Iraq and Iran preferred to settle in the U.S. and Australia, while Assyrians from Turkey preferred to settle in Europe. The Internet is finally uniting these Assyrian communities in diaspora, regardless of their geographic, educational, and economic backgrounds.


‘Olelo Hawai’i: A Rich Oral History, a Bright Digital Future

Authors: Donaghy and Keola

Olelo Hawai’i, the Hawaiian language, has an oral tradition as rich as any language on earth. Prior to the arrival of westerners in the late 1700s, it was the only language spoken in the Hawaiian archipelago. The language flourished in written form as well, after having been assigned Latin characters by Calvinist missionaries in the early 1800s. The Hawaiian nation was among the most literate in the world in the last half of the 19th century. Children of Hawaiian parents, as well as western missionaries and business people, were all schooled through the medium of Hawaiian language.


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