Category Archives: Technology

The Inuit Sharing Old Traditions With New App

“A social media app geared toward the outdoor lives of Inuit launched Wednesday with features that tie traditional knowledge to smartphone technology. The Siku app named after the Inuktitut word for sea ice, allows users to trade observations about dangerous conditions, document wildlife sightings and trade hunting stories… It also allows travellers to add in the traditional terms for potentially perilous conditions using their own language.” The Canadian Press

Puasi Ippak tests out the Siku mobile app… (The Canadian Press:HO-Arctic Eider Society)

Excerpt: Inuit sharing ancient knowledge of ice, sea and land with new app  The Canadian Press

“The app was created by a team of developers assembled by the Arctic Eider Society, a charity based in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, and launched at a conference in Halifax on Wednesday.

Joel Heath, the executive director of the society, says the project was born from a desire by Inuit elders to document and share oral history with young people.

Heath said during the launch at the ArcticNet conference that Inuit hunters are out on the ice or land most days gathering food for their communities, and they have unique needs that existing social media like Facebook and Twitter don’t address…Through the app, hunters can upload such information into Siku and tag other areas of interest, such as particular wildlife they’ve tracked.

A file photo of Joel Heath, of the Arctic Eider Society. (Google Canada:Aaron Brindle)

Safety is among the key attractions of the program, said Heath.

During his presentation, he explained how one hunter testing Siku had placed a triangular warning sign on a map of an ice field near Sanikiluaq in the spring, providing a traditional Inuit term for its dangerous condition.

‘It looks like a normal tidal crack … But he knew the difference that if the wind comes across this kind of crack it can break it open,’ he said.

Hours later, the satellite map showed how the crack had widened enough that Ski-Doos on the wrong side of it wouldn’t be able to return.

The hamlet of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut.

‘It shows how [a hunter] taking a few photos and tagging can mobilize Indigenous knowledge,’ said Heath.

The app has four main types of posts: Social, Wildlife, Sea Ice and Tools. There are 80 Arctic species listed under Wildlife, including birds, fish and land animals. Users can make posts that include observations of individuals, groups, tracks, nests and dens, as well as fields such as habitat, diet, body condition and other details about rare or unusual events.

The Social button is where users can post about hunting trips and share photos, tagging them with location and other information.

The project was the winner of the 2017 Impact Challenge in Canada, bringing $750,000 in funding.”


The Next Generation of NASA Natives in 2020!

“NASA’s next generation of Natives: After the moon it’s the 2020 Mission to Mars.” A Chavez, ICM

Aaron Yazzie follows the footsteps of Native pioneers like John Herrington and Jerry Elliot; NASA now has some 21 Native American employees


Excerpt: By A. Chavez, ICM

“Aaron Yazzie follows the footsteps of Native pioneers like John Herrington and Jerry Elliot; NASA now has some 21 Native American employees.

Aaron Yazzie sometimes felt like he was in a ‘little bubble’ growing up on the Navajo Nation reservation in Holbrook, Arizona.

He doesn’t remember learning about the exact happenings of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. The bulk of his information came from the movies.

That is, until he graduated from Stanford University, and then became a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Aaron Yazzie and Jerry Elliot in front of the Endeavor Space Shuttle at the California Science Center in 2015. Photo by Aaron Yazzie.)

In November, he played a part in building hardware on the InSight Mars Lander whose mission is to map out the structure of Mars. He built the spacecraft’s pressure inlet, a device that accurately monitors the pressure of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

While Earth and Mars are a mere 250 million miles away, Yazzie says they are more in common than one would think. For him, this has been an unexpected way to think about the planet.

Yazzie, 33, credits his success to the mentorship he received through the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. He has been a member since high school.

It was at an AISES conference where Yazzie first met other Natives working at NASA like Herrington and Elliott.

‘I’ve always looked up to them,’ Yazzie said. ‘They have been leaders and elders in STEM. I always wanted to follow in their path.’

He is currently working on a new mission: Mars 2020. This time, he is building a tool to be able to drill holes into rocks and pull out samples. Their hope is that the first man (or woman) on Mars will bring the samples back to earth with them.”

Additonal Readings:

“John Bennett Herrington (Chickasaw Nation) is a retired United States Naval Aviator and former NASA astronaut. In 2002, Herrington became the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe to fly in space.”  -Wikipedia

Jerry C. Elliot (Cherokee,Osage) “Jerry joined NASA in April, 1966, as a Flight Mission Operations Engineer at NASA’s Mission Control Center, and has held progressively responsible technical and managerial positions with highly successful accomplishments in the fields of spacecraft systems, hardware, software, configuration design, trajectories, mission operations, Earth resources, astronaut crew equipment, scientific experiments and technical management.”  -NASA

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Natives Need More Training and Control over Digital Tech

“Companies supplying indigenous people with services should have a cultural protocol to clarify who are the custodians of their data.Digital tech can damage indigenous culture by revealing sacred sites or rituals…indigenous people need better rights to access and destroy sensitive data.” M. Jade, Scidev



Excerpt: Indigenous people need control over digital tech By Mikaela Jade

Indigenous people need more support to become tech-savvy and deal with the threats digital technology can pose to their culture, a conference has heard.

Digital technologies such as smartphones and drones can bring problems as well as advantages to indigenous communities an expert panel said at the World Conservation Congress. Without in-depth knowledge of the scope of such technology, indigenous people may allow themselves to be misrepresented and their knowledge to get exploited, they said.

One issue is the struggle to keep sacred sites a secret in a world where posting photos and publishing blogs can reveal their locations…The panel, which took place on [the] 5, of  September in Honolulu, Hawaii, acknowledged that digital technology can enable indigenous communities to claim rights over land and better preserve traditions. Having access to GPS mapping, social media platforms and other communication tools is also crucial, to make their voices more prominent in global discussions, the panelists agreed.”

“The best way forward is for communities and digital companies to work together.”-Roberto Borreo, a consultant at the International Indian Treaty Council

Category: Technology

Lummi Science Students Get A Call From NASA!

“It started out as a joke. The students at Northwest Indian College on the Lummi Reservation near Bellingham were launching little rockets made from recycled water bottles as a way to do some hands-on science. Computer science teacher Gary Brandt says calling it a space center was just something one of the students came up with.” J. McNichols,

Christian Cultee, a student at the Northwest Indian College, with a rocket that broke the sound barrier. Photo- Joshua MCNichols.

Christian Cultee, a student at the Northwest Indian College, with a rocket that broke the sound barrier. Photo- Joshua MCNichols.

Excerpt: Why NASA Called The Northwest Indian College Space Center By Joshua McNichols- KUOW

“And he said, I called us the Northwest Indian College Space Center. And I said, OK, let’s do that. That’s kind of grandiose. Let’s really play it up. The joke was funny because this was just a tiny, two-year college, with no engineering program.

Getting into space was the last thing on the minds of these students; they were just trying to escape poverty. Next thing they knew, NASA was calling them up. It was beyond their wildest dreams. Christian Cultee, a student there, grew up nearby. My uncle runs a fish hatchery up here, Cultee said. My biggest fear here, my whole life, was just kind of being trapped here on the reservation. At Northwest Indian College, they stumbled into another passion – launching pressurized water-bottle rockets for fun.

Every time someone launched a rocket, students gathered to watch. They read online about more advanced rocketry programs in other schools, but those programs were really expensive. One day, teacher Gary Brandt broke down and bought three rocket kits anyway. Not long after their first real rocket launch, Brandt got a phone call – from NASA…NASA would give them $5,000 a year for three years. It was enough to get them to take themselves seriously. The students began entering competitions. Each year, NASA organized a different challenge.

That resourcefulness, borne out of poverty, has helped the Northwest Indian College Space Center outperform some schools with far greater resources. That gumption is what caught NASA’s attention. Now people are starting to take the space program at the Northwest Indian College seriously.”

“It’s just an amazing feeling for me to see the look of competence…The look of self-esteem. And when I see them talking with these big engineering graduate-level students from Vanderbilt and these things on an absolutely equal basis – you can see how it makes me feel.” Computer science teacher and space center leader ~Gary Brandt~

Category: Technology

Native Inventions and Innovations

“Soon after the arrival of Columbus, detailed descriptions of the inventions of Indigenous Peoples began to make their way back to Europe. Not satisfied that “savages” would be able to generate such innovation, rumors began to spread that the Americas were simply a lost colony of Christians or Israelites. Such rumors still exist today and in fact continue to be discussed by archeologists.” V. Schilling ICTMN

Discussion Questions for this post

Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World.

Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World.

Excerpt: 10 Native Inventions and Innovations…By Vincent Schilling ICTMN

“But all of this aside, indigenous cultures have created thousands upon thousands of innovations that are in use today in the most modern of practices, be it a tub of popcorn at the movies, the administering of medicines with surgical precision or the removal of tartar from teeth in modern dentistry…These are but a few examples of indigenous ingenuity, but highlighting them serves to unswathe yet another facet of hidden history.”


Native Medicine.Credit- Whitewolfpack

Native Medicine.Credit- Whitewolfpack

Credit- Thinkstock

Credit- Thinkstock

“Take a step back in respect, Rite-Aid enthusiasts. According to Daniel Moerman, the foremost expert on North American Indian ethnobotany in the United States, North American Indians have medicinal uses for 2,564 plant species.”

Syringes, or Hypodermic Needles

Credit- Thinkstock

Credit- Thinkstock

“Though Scotsman Alexander Wood is credited with inventing the syringe in 1853, in pre-Columbian times South American Indians used a type of syringe made from sharpened hollow bird bones attached to small bladders to inject medicine, irrigate wounds or even clean ears.”

Baby Bottles and Formula

Credit- Thinkstock

Credit- Thinkstock

“Using similar technology as the syringe, the Seneca used washed, dried and oiled bear intestines with a bird quill attached as a form of nipple. Mothers filled them with a mixture of pounded nuts, meat and water.”

Bunk Beds

Credit- Whitewolfpack

Credit- Whitewolfpack

In the Northeast of the United States, the Iroquois have long lived in longhouses—long, extended buildings made of branches formed into a large half circle and covered with bark. Inside these longhouses were bunk-beds. A creation of two beds built one on top of the other.”

Credit- Thinkstock

Credit- Thinkstock

“No thanks necessary, Ikea.”

“People today have forgotten they’re really just a part of nature. Yet, they destroy the nature on which our lives depend. They always think they can make something better. Especially scientists. They may be smart, but most don’t understand the heart of nature… They only invent things that, in the end, make people unhappy. Yet they’re so proud of their inventions…They worship them. They don’t know it, but they’re losing nature. They don’t see that they’re going to perish. The most important things for human beings are clean air and clean water.” ~ Akira Kurosawa~

The Autumn Wind  By AJ Vargas

The Autumn Wind By AJ Vargas

Thankful for Family, Friends, and Good Food!

Thankful for Family, Friends, and Good Food!

Discussion Questions for this post
  1. Who was Columbus?
  2. Who was originally credited with inventing the syringe?
  3. Explain how the South American Natives made their syringes.
  4. Where do the majority of Native medicines come from?
  5. Which tribe was responsible for inventing bunk-beds?
Category: Technology