Focus on Technology
FORT YATES, N.D. - Technology can bring jobs to a reservation or bring
growth to businesses that already exist. With broadband and wireless
technology, communication can also bring tribal membership together.
Corrine Garza of Tlingit and Haida Technology Industries, lives on an
island of Southeastern Alaska, just off the British Columbia coast.
Transportation on the islands is by boat and manufacturing which requires
good roads to move goods means no work for the Tlingit and Haida.
"It takes $40,000 for insurance just so the boats can go out.
Environmentalists shut down the forests and now there are no logging jobs,
it's a challenge to create jobs," Garza said. So they applied for USDA
funds, installed broadband technology and with a tribally owned 8A
certificate they received the funds through sole-source options. They also
took advantage of the sole source contract.
The tribes code documents into digital for the government. It's a $50
million contract over a five-year period. There are now 25 employees in
Juneau. The jobs are not high technology, they are coding jobs where no
degree is required and Garza said they pay better than the mean wage for
the area, year round.
Before, logging and fishing paid better per hour, but they were seasonal
jobs. "The goal is to hire tribal members," Garza said.
Garrett Furuicki, economic development director for the Washoe tribe of
California and Nevada, said everyone there communicates primarily via
They have also worked with the Goshutes in a collaborative effort to
improve health care. Furuicki said that everything they do is to improve
the health of the community. They have a grant that will put a special line
in the clinic so they can connect with larger medical facilities by means
"We tried to make the most of the resources we had. We partnered with USDA
and others. We use broadband tel-radiology; we are training our people and
have more experience in medicine to treat the people," said Dr. Thomas
Eddison Maynor, Lumbee, deputy director of the Washoe Tribal Health Center.
"We spent $400,000 on radiology last year. Now we take the x-ray in our
office and use broadband to sent it out to be read and saved $250,000, just
on radiology," Dr. Maynor said.
Another example is that the Washoe do not have a full-time podiatrist. The
clinical staff takes a picture of the patient's feet, sends it via
broadband and in minutes have an answer on how to treat the patient.
Other American Indian communities have accomplished this task, especially
in Alaska. In some communities there are no nurses, only staff people -
doctors visit once a year. So, the solution was to create wireless and
broadband communications to solve those problems. And most of it done with
government grants and help from the FCC or AT&T, summit speakers and
What the tribal governments and education systems are seeing is 18 to
25-year-olds demanding faster and faster technology, broadband and T-1
How do tribes go about putting that type of technological infrastructure
"There are a lot of theories on business development," Fletcher Brown,
TAMSCO, said. "One, you can decide what you want to sell, get the money and
then go sell. Don't do that.
"Find a government contract that will allow you to build an infrastructure
and sell the product or service back to the federal government - that's
what you do.
"[Tlingit and Haida] have a $50 million contract with the government and
they have a first-class facility, all paid for through the contract they
have, it's a wonderful facility," Brown said.
In five years, he said, if the work runs out there is a structure in place.
The Flathead reservation in Montana through S&K Technologies also works in
this way. They had to open offices near military operations in South
Carolina, but after performing quality work they are now able to do the
same work on the reservation through broadband technology and their tribal
members can work on the reservation.
Brown encouraged everyone to take advantage of the sole-source loans. He
said that 90 percent of government contract officers are not aware that
sole-source can be the advantage tribes need to compete in the market.
Only tribally owned businesses and Alaska Native corporations are eligible
for the 13 CFR 124.506 contracts. Some tribes have already tapped into this
resource for billion of dollars worth of contracts.
"What is it you want to achieve, money or create jobs," Brown asked.
Garza advised attendees to decide on a strategy. "Contractors want to
partner with Indian country and we are about jobs. You have to be
proficient at what you do before branching out."
It's all easy on paper, but when it comes down to putting ideas into
practice it will take a stable and willing tribal government to succeed. A
question often asked by companies who want to work with tribes, came up
during the summit: How do you approach tribal government that is reluctant
to release any authority?
Jonathon Taylor of the Taylor Policy Group, Inc. said a three-day
conference designed to unwind the webs created by the federal government
may work. He made reference to the Cherokee change in the constitution that
opened doors to better business partnerships, but he added the change had
to come from within.