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KOSU is committed to being more reflective of the audiences we serve. In Oklahoma, having stories reported by Indigenous reporters for Native communities is imperative.

First-of-its-kind digital sovereignty center for tribal nations launches

Signal Tower
Miguel Á. Padriñán
Signal Tower

Conversations about bridging the digital divide are nothing new to tribal nations. However, there was never a center to support tribes in creating individual digital sovereignty plans — until now.

Last week, the National Congress of Americans Indians and the American Indian Policy Insitute at Arizona State University announced the Center for Tribal Digital Sovereignty during the NCAI 2024 Mid-Year Convention and Marketplace.

NCAI President Mark Macarro (Pechanga Band of Indians) called it “a landmark moment” in a statement and emphasized how the center will strengthen tribes’ cultural integrity and autonomy.

Traci Morris is a Chickasaw citizen and the director of the ASU policy institute. She explained that digital sovereignty can ultimately have a lasting impact.

“If we do this right, it builds the economy of tribes,” she said. “It builds education, it builds our health care, it builds our energy grids.”

Morris defined digital sovereignty as the governance and management of a tribe’s digital footprint, including digital properties such as networks and hardware. She also explained data sovereignty is a component of digital sovereignty.

“When folks talk about data sovereignty, they're referring to control over the data transmitted through the network,” Morris said. “So data protections, returning data to tribes, etc. would be one component in a tribe's digital sovereignty plan.”

The center focuses on four goals: supporting research and capacity-building efforts, creating a clearinghouse of tribal data and establishing a Tribal Digital Sovereignty Coalition to offer additional support.

Morris said Oklahoma tribes can expect to see tribal broadband bootcamps, which teach tribal members how to build internet networks.

She said the first class in tribal digital sovereignty will launch next spring, and an online master’s program in tribal digital sovereignty is in the works.

“I believe that success would be tribes exercising and choosing to proactively exercise sovereignty over their digital sphere — whatever that means for them,” Morris said.

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Sarah Liese reports on Indigenous Affairs for KOSU.
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