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Indians in Cyberspace
by Mike MacDonald

Who is
by Cheryl L'Hirondelle

First Nations in Cyberspace
by Mike Patterson

Image Credit: NASA JPL-Caltech E. Churchwell University of Wisconsin


First Nations in Cyberspace: Two Worlds and Tricksters - Where the Forest meets the Highway

by Mike Patterson

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Chapter Seven

Conclusions and Implications for First Nations

Ethnography has constructed an object of knowledge ("culture") that has remained relatively constant across changes in theoretical positions and interpretive methods. This object, and the means by which it is constructed, is situated within networks of power and what Michel Foucault refers to as "regimes of truth." The ethnographic text is thus made possible only by certain historical, political, and epistemological contexts. The study of indigenous media, with its often uncritical appropriation of ethnographic discourse, must be located in reference to the historical specificity of this discourse and to the "practical politics" of colonization and domination.

The historical experience of culture contact and conflict between colonizing Europeans and the aboriginal population of North America shape the ways in which First Nations communities today have appropriated and developed the forms of mass media. This history has also shaped the way cultural differences are experienced, imagined, and represented within and between these two groups. The current struggle for access to media and the discursive frames within which this struggle is analyzed have common roots in modes of domination. (Bredin 1993)
We as a society cannot afford further divisions between the information haves and have-nots. A gap in the availability of Internet access will have a multiplier effect and create an even more significant divide in critical areas such as education, job training, literacy, public health and economic prosperity. (Tim Koogle, Chairman and CEO of Yahoo!, at the G-8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit 2000)

Today in Canada an era of limited political autonomy has occurred and there is strong movement toward self-determination, healing, and expression of Native perspectives. The colonial policies carried out against Natives of North America for the last 500 years have not worked. In particular, Natives in Canada and elsewhere are surviving and thriving, and a strong movement toward self-determination is in process (Frideres 2001, RCAP 1995, Mercredi 1993, Fleras and Elliott 1992).

The data in this dissertation demonstrate that cyberspace is empowering to First Nations, at this time. Pockets of communications, such as Frosty's, alt.native, thousands of websites, are establishing territory in cyberspace.

First Nations in Canada need to take a proactive approach to the use of cyberspace; this new territory-in-process is a chance to refine and redefine Native and non-Native priorities. One of the strongest of the new tools is Information Technology (IT). It enables communications from the margins to the centre, it can help with preservation of oral culture and language: "With a multimedia computer the Internet becomes a multimedia system, featuring sound and graphics and video…" Cyberspace allows remote communities to communicate and access the latest information, it can support culture, and "our Nations will be able to speak more quickly and directly than ever before" on the Internet (Morrisson 1995).

The year 2003 marks the end of the UN's Decade of Indigenous Peoples. But it is just a beginning in cyberspace, and this thought from a decade ago still applies:

I agree with Gerald McMaster that 1992 (Columbus' Quincentenary) was a year for reflection on ourselves, on who we are, and how we are all represented in the discourse of history and art and literature, feminism and resistance, land rights, treaty rights, sovereignty, and self-determination. In 1993, the International Year of Indigenous Peoples, we must recognize -- and act upon -- the intertwined past and present of our two worlds, our parallel voices. (Valaskakis 1993)

How can Natives find unique ways to use the technology based on Native values and worldviews, to reflect those voices? There is need for a national technology discussion for First Nations, because cyberspace has increasing power over the future of Native groups, and it is not yet tied to the institutions and agencies of government. Information Technology and cyberspace of themselves are the agents of change, and they are changing us.

I believe that the upcoming generation, the Native N-Geners from 15-25, and the ones that follow, will be more influential in the course of First Nations' future than any young generation before them. We will be leaving the Residential School intergenerational traumas behind as youth embrace the Net, and make it their own. Increasingly, adults can only sit by and watch. In the future, what will the youth of cyberspace, who grew up there, be like? In Native communities, how much more divorced from traditions (and the community) might they become?

Next: 7.1 Two Worlds and Tricksters

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