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04/30/2004 - Technology Partnership Assists Tribal Access Network

Once it was called "the digital divide," now it's called "digital democracy." Essentially, the term refers to digital technology and its scope of availability regardless of where one lives or what economic resources one may have. Whatever you choose to call it, the Inland Northwest has "digital democracy" in abundance. For this we can thank a core of forward-looking leaders who care about the greater good. The most recent example is the Tribal Access Network.

The Tribal Access Network (TAN) is an on-line Web-based environment created for preserving, documenting, and archiving tribal culture, history, and language. The network was first implemented for the Upper Inland Plateau Tribes of the Inland Northwest, who intended it to revolutionize how history and culture are communicated for tribes throughout the Northwest --- then on to the rest of the nation. Among other things, the TAN will be a venue for Tribal Members and Elders to share their own knowledge and narratives on their history and culture. Funding for the initial project came from a 3-year $505,000 Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) grant. This grant was awarded to the Kalispel Tribe in late 2002 by the U. S. Department of Commerce.

Partners with the Kalispels in the grant include: Camas Institute, Spokane's Museum of Art and Culture (MAC), SIRTI, Class101, and Technology for Learning Consortium. The goal of the grant is to help provide technology access to tribes for the purpose of documenting their culture --- past and present. Tribes don't want their ancient culture and language to die with the elders. To look at the TAN, visit www.tribalaccess.net.

Basically the Tribal Access Network is a Portal that includes Web sites for five different tribes and each Tribal Access Center involved. The grant mandates that three Tribal Access Centers are to be added each year of the grant. The first year, the MAC, culture office of the Kalispels, and Camas Institute were added. The second year, Cusick High School, the Language Center of the Spokane Tribe at Wellpinit, Washington, and the Flathead cultural offices located at St. Ignatius, Montana were added. The third year will see the addition of the Coeur d'Alene tribes culture program, the Okanogan language program of the Colville Confederated Tribes located at Omak, Washington, and another educational site with the Wellpinit School District in Wellpinit, Washington.

One of the Kalispel Tribe's primary goals for their network is language preservation. As a result of this initiative, they have created multimedia Salish language tutorials. The Flash sessions use audio files, visual learning, and text to fully illustrate a word's meaning, pronunciation, and spelling.

Class101 helped to create the Portal --- both the outside view, and the internal "technology backbone". They used Lumenation Middleware, a product of their partner company, Lumen Software. The tools available for use by the Tribal members are designed for many different skill levels. Any member can easily create a personal, private Web page using the tool's easy templates, fill in the blanks, and point and click capability. The member can choose to add the Web page to the larger Web site, again by a point and click, or the member may choose to keep it completely private.

For members who want to execute more complex operations such as writing code, that capability is available. Advanced users also have the tools to build a database application that will tie to anything --- SQL, mySQL, etc.. The environment is fully tested, robust, and secure based on HIPAA standards.

In addition to the Portal, the Kalispels are working to bring computers and broadband into all the homes on their reservation. The technology access initiative has been developed by the tribes along with Camas Institute. They have placed computers in almost every tribal home with broadband being supplied to many of the tribal operations. Now work has begun on getting access to the sites across the river in Usk.

"Good things are happening," says Class101's Phil Autrey. Class101 does the training and facilitation and supports the actual Tribal training staff.

Anyone interested in the Tribal Access Network or the Lumenation development environment contact Phil Autrey at phil@class101.com.

Billie Moreland
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