News Roundup

Indigenous Tech and Media News Roundup: Indigenous Mapping Day Edition

Sad news: this is my final indigenous tech and media roundup in my official capacity as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. Hard to believe this magnificent year is drawing to a close.

This week, I’d like to highlight Google and the Congress of the American Indian’s first ever Indigenous Mapping Day, which takes place 9 August 2013. Google describes the event as:

… a chance for indigenous peoples to take ownership of how their communities are represented on Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Maps for Mobile. Using Google Map Maker, you can add to, edit and improve your local maps by mapping college campuses, medical centers, tribal offices, local roads, historical landmarks, and everything in between! With your help, let’s build the most comprehensive, digitally preserved maps of indigenous lands across the globe.

It’s too late to officially register to participate, but you can still learn more about how to use Google Map Maker and pledge to improve your community map online. I personally think these free, open-source tools are the future of participatory crowd-sourced indigenous mapping.

Speaking of which, First Peoples Worldwide, Cultural Survival, and International Indian Treaty Council  is harnessing these free, open-source tools to map regions worldwide which either ignore the principle of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) or honor them in interactions with indigenous communities. This is a crowd-sourced map, so they need your input. If you know of an FPIC case, get in touch and add it to the map here.

Indigenous mapping is a concept I hope to explore more in the future. Before I left Australia, a colleague from the Central Land Council  (the body that deals with land claims and management issues in Central Australia) asked me to present on some of the mapping projects I’ve encountered throughout my travels. I hope to upload the presentation I gave, titled “Trends in Collaborative Cybercartography”, soon.

Other native news this week:

  • The Conference Board of Canada published important updates on digital connectivity in the North. Their new August 2013 report, “Mapping the Long-Term Options for Canada’s North: Telecommunications and Broadband Connectivity,” utilizes case studies to illustrate the challenges and opportunities of (affordably) connecting Canada’s northernmost – and likely majority indigenous – citizens.
  • Did you know Moxilla Firefox is available in multiple indigenous languages from Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador? Click here to learn more about how you can surf the web in Kichwa, Zapoteca, Yaqui, or Ixil, to name a few. Kudos to the Moxilla México team for doing such fantastic (and prolific) localization of internet software.
  • Life Mosaic, an organization that produces and distributes educational materials about indigenous rights, is seeking an experienced film-maker to join their team. The deadline to apply is 16 August 2013. Get on it, all you socially-minded creative types!
  • I can add another in my  list of catchy indigenous hip-hop artists (A Tribe Called Red, Los Nin, and throat-singing beat-boxer Nelson Tagoona ): Nils Rune Utsi. He is the founding member of Slincraze, a group that raps in Sami, the traditional indigenous language of their home country of Norway. (BBC)
  • On that note, Canadian aboriginal group Tribe Called Red would really like fans to stop wearing redface to their concerts. Deejay NDN speaks powerfully about cultural appropriation and the musical politics of decolonization with Indian Country and HuffPo Canada.
  • I’d love to sit down to coffee with Carly Davenport, an Australian recently awarded a Churchill Fellowship, which she will use to explore the use of participatory media toolkits by indigenous peoples in the Phillipines, UK, US and Peru. Read more about her here.
  • Australian musical duo Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs are reviving the first sounds of Indigenous Australians to ever be recorded for a new song. The recordings, made on a wax cylinder in 1899 and 1903, were the first and last recordings of the traditional Tasmanian Aboriginal language. Listen at ABC.
  • Denis Smith-Ali, a Noongar woman from Southwest of Western Australia, is working on a cultural mapping project using Google Earth. I’ve touched on some of the great ways Google Earth can be used for indigenous cultural mapping purposes, exemplified by the Surui Cultural Map. Denis hopes to harness these tools to relate endangered language conservation work with place. (ABC South West WA)
  • SBS reports on a smartphone app to learn Yugambeh, an Aboriginal language found in Queensland. See my complete list of indigenous language-learning apps here or at Rising Voices.
  • The Wall Street Journal covers the fascinating story of political positioning by the Maori of New Zealand in their attempt to fight a government auction of the radio spectrum, a sale valued at around US$314 million. The Maori argue that radio waves qualify as taonga — treasure and precious things — under the 173-year-old Treaty of Waitangi, which guarantees Maori ownership and control of such resources. Read more here.
  • A Massey University masters student in New Zealand will investigate the role of social media in Maori political engagement. “I wanted to explore how social media sites [like Facebook] can be culturally safe spaces for encouraging indigenous development and engagement with the political system,” she told Voxy. Read more here.
  • Inspired by the recent “The Long Ranger” release, Al Jazeera looks at how Native American stereotypes in film impact attitudes toward indigenous peoples. They incorporate samples of the social media buzz that resulted from the film. See the whole 35-minute feature below. (Ashley Carter at Left Lion also takes a somewhat grim look at the history of unfair representation of Native Americans in cinema.)

  • Some say the emergence of indigenous filmmaking has been the most significant shift in Australian cinema in the last two decades. The British Film Institute in London is launching a season to explore and commemorate this important sector of film.  The series, called Australia: Shifting Sands, begins with a preview of Walkabout on 10 September and runs until 8 October.

Happy hump day! What are you reading this week?

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