Laura Marissa Cullell is an MA Graduate in International Law and Human Rights from UPEACE.
How can Indigenous Sovereignty be upheld with modern technology?
In Canada, there are at least 1.6 million Indigenous people
, representing more than 5% of the total population. This population has a need for transparent, accessible technology that addresses the nuances of the pan-Indigenous diversity, and challenges to achieve the sovereignty they’ve been denied for so long.
Maiam Nayri Wingara
argues that Indigenous Sovereignty and Indigenous Data Governance (IDG) movements have emerged as a response to poor data practices, from the conceptualisation of data items through accurate reporting of data about Indigenous peoples.
According to Animikii
, an Indigenous based software development agency, there are many challenges associated with data sovereignty. They argue that:
“Indigenous organizations, including governments, don’t often have full control over their own finances. In a capitalistic settler-colonial economy, it’s difficult to make a lot of money when you own little land. Meanwhile, the value of land is ruled by supply and demand where there’s always a demand but little supply. Control of the economy is a central element of sovereignty. Without it, Indigenous Peoples must negotiate with outside entities and shuffle funds from one program to another just to keep the lights on, much less support vital infrastructure.”
Furthermore, they add:
“It’s hard to even think about funding expensive Information
Technology (IT) projects when your community doesn’t have reliable internet, much less affordable electricity or clean drinking water.
In Canada, the University of British Colombia
(UBC) is developing a project to provide data sovereignty for Indigenous Sovereignty and address the challenges associated with Indigenous Sovereignty in the tech space.
This project will facilitate the development of a sovereign data resource management platform for First Nation communities in Britsh Colombia.
UBC will use a platform called Attaverse
to build a prototype for a blockchain community and reciprocity currency platform. They hope to carve out trees of knowledge to foster a better cross-cultural understanding and communication which will serve as a holder for the research.
1. To explore pathways for the development of a fisheries management tool built on a decentralized network
2. Using data analytics to identify cultural bias, augment reconciliation, and drive public policy through deep democracy.
3. The long-range goal will be to develop Indigenous informed blockchain and associated technologies capable of supporting a cryptocurrency or commodity-backed asset.
The organization does not develop technology themselves, but rather sees themselves as a filter layer to encourage collaboration between Indigenous communities.
Its aim is to “bridge the gap between Indigenous peoples and emerging tech because digital equity is the fastest route towards overall equity.”
Through the Blockchain for Reconciliation Project
and by engaging Indigenous communities on the potential of Distributed Ledger Technologies, this project wishes to work directly with them on developing tangible use cases, help create a reconciliation mandate and to strengthen Indigenous communities with technology.
According to B4R:
“Creating equity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians will allow us to demonstrate the inequality of the initial system. We can show North Americans how the increased transparency created by distributed ledger technology can lead to better outcomes for everyone, both socially and economically
Although Indigenous Sovereignty is still emerging and evolving, Indigenous peoples leveraging blockchain technology are using contemporary technology to uphold Indigenous traditions in a modern age.
By doing so, they are striving to uphold human rights and free and open access to data. Utilizing blockchain to promulgate this goal may grant Indigenous people increased control over their narratives and help to preserve historical practices for future generations.
Laura Marissa Cullell is an MA Graduate of the UN University of Peace in International Law and Human Rights. She wrote her thesis on Blockchain and the Sustainable Development Goals: Utilizing Disruptive Technologies to Promote Human Rights, Peace, and Good Governance. She loves puns, cookie dough, glitter, and reading an obscene amount of books at the speed of light.
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