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The Pros and Cons of Technology for Indigenous Tribes

We now live in the “age of information” with technologies such as the internet or smartphone. This usually is looked at positively by first world countries. Even though this may be true, not all groups have been introduced to the technological innovation that we have seen. This has risen the debate whether the groups of people, mostly indigenous tribes, should be introduced to technology we see today. If so, how will this affect them? As with many issues, the answer is not so black and white. Because of this, to fully analyze the topic, we must look at the pros and cons of technology for indigenous tribes.

First, we should define what an indigenous tribe is. These are groups of people who identify as the original inhabitants. Some indigenous people have been introduced to technology and have grown up with the lifestyle we have. Others have maintained their traditions and other aspects of life in early culture. In this articles, we will focus on those who haven’t been introduced.

Pros

  • Technology provides opportunities that did not exist before. This can give tribes the tools to create complex communities. If you want to maintain cultural integrity, you can divide the tribe based off of special skills. Things such as hunting or agriculture can be developed in a more advanced way. Technology also allows the tribe to create a more complex system of laws and procedures. On a more international scale, technology can provide the tools for an indigenous tribe to compete on a global level. This gives an opportunity for economic development and the possibility to trade in a global market. For example, PEOPLinks provide 100,000 indigenous people internet training and allows for villages to trade globally. This has drastically increased the opportunities for over 100 indigenous tribes.
  • Provides an increased quality of life. In advanced societies, we may take simple things such as air conditioning or refrigeration for granted. Simple technologies can increase the quality of life for indigenous tribes by introducing them to things that make their daily lives easier. This, in turn, can increase comfortability and increase the level of production in that society.
  • Technology can increase the average lifespan. As medicine has been studied more, advanced technology can diagnose and prevent diseases leading to longer, healthier lives. More importantly, infant mortality rates can be lower as modern medicine can help them before and after childbirth process. Younger children can be treated for outdated diseases leading more children to live into adulthood. The medication can be specific to the region of the indigenous tribe.
  • Technology opens the indigenous tribe to other cultures. As technology has created more ways for communication, it has allowed for information to be easily accessed. Because of this, more people are able to research or learn about different cultures. This can help others make informed decisions on religious or political views. Even further, this allows for cross-cultural integration with food, animals, and even ideas.

Cons

  • Introducing technology can change or alter traditions. Indigenous tribes have a long history of tradition and culture that define them and make their tribe unique. These can be religious in nature or rooted in their society. Introducing technology can disrupt these traditions in many different ways. One way is it distracts them from what is important. As technology has created faster-moving lifestyles with more production, many people in advanced societies get distracted and lose focus. Another way this can happen is over a long period of time, the indigenous tribe might conform to an ideal culture. Much like people strive to be more American or European, indigenous tribes could lose touch over time as cultures become more integrated.
  • Although a positive is that technology can increase the lifespan through modern medicine, on the other side it could introduce new diseases. This is seen throughout history. For example, Spain, when finding the Mayan empire, introduced a number of diseases wiping out a large part of the population. Since the indigenous tribes have different immune systems, introducing them to more developed viruses could have negative effects.

Summary

Of course, these pros and cons just scratch the surface of the topic.There are many viewpoints on the subject that differ depending on how indigenous tribes are defined. They also change whether the discussion is centered around isolated indigenous tribes or those who have already been introduced to technology. For more information on the topic, the United Nations releases articles on their viewpoints.

The Role of Technology in Indigenous Communities

Group of aboriginal peopleThe Mukurtu CMS was originally developed by project leads Kim Christen and Craig Dietrich alongside members of the Warumungu community.

As of 2017, however, Mukurtu is employed by a diverse array of communities around the world, all joined by a shared desire to chronicle and share their cultural heritage in the digital realm.

The Warumungu are indigenous Australians who primarily inhabit the Northern Territories of the country, as well as various towns in the south.

Their long history in their native lands turned to grave struggles with famine and displacement in the 20th century. Gold mining forced the community away from their homelands, which they were unable to reclaim until 1993 after a protracted legal battle.

Many other indigenous communities around the world have adopted Mukurtu over the last ten years. The Plateau People’s Web Portal is a particularly intriguing example of the archive in action. It is primarily organized around ‘Tribal Paths’ – each one dedicated to a different plateau tribe. With cultural sensitivity in mind, each path follows the protocols of the individual tribe. Materials posted on the platform are carefully curated and searchable via categories and media type (images, text, etc).

Scholars have long understood the importance or preserving and sharing global social heritage but the rights and needs of indigenous communities have been swept aside repeatedly through history by the aggressive interests of expanding empires and aggressive corporate interests.

Although inroads have been made to connect communities, the way of life of native peoples has been changed irreparably by the recent settlement of individuals in the ‘new world.’

The relative isolation of these communities leads them to exist on the periphery of mainstream society. Living conditions in American reservations are dramatically worse on average than the national average, with almost 30% below the federal poverty line. Meanwhile, life expectancies remain five years lower than the national average.

The dilemma faced by many tribal leaders is one of increased integration vs. ongoing efforts at cultural preservation. These interests are regarded by many to be incompatible with one another, but technology can help communities to document remarkable artifacts unique to their tribe.

Here are some more inspiring examples of how communities around the world are preserving and exchanging their cultural heritage online:

Utah American Indian Digital Archive

The Utah American Indian Digital Archive is a remarkably detailed resource featuring a large number of articles, books, photos, and maps from each of Utah’s tribes. The team behind the archive are involved in ongoing digitization efforts to bring more and more valuable historical and cultural treasures to a wider digital platform

Researchers from the University of Utah’s American West Center pioneered this resource on behalf of Utah’s Indians and approximately 40 years of research have gone into its creation and collection of artifacts.

The website also employs a powerful advanced search feature making it relatively easy to dig up information on particular specialized areas of interest.

Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages is a digital archive dedicated to works of literature in languages of Indigenous Australians of the Northern Territories.

It is noteworthy for it’s intuitive map feature, allowing users to search around the coastal and vast inland expanses of the Australian Northern Territory to find aboriginal language books lovingly digitized.

Uploads are also carefully categorized by author and each indivdual tribal language. Meanwhile, users can browse for particular kinds of literature to identify, for example, narrative fiction works only.

Iroquois Indian Museum

The Iroquois Indian Museum is located around 50km west of Albany in upstate New York. The team behind the museum stage an annual festival which features demonstrations, traditional dancing and market stalls.

The Iroquois confederacy was a powerful force in the northeast region and consisted of multiple tribes including the Mohawk peoples.

The museum is noteworthy for not just focusing on historical artifacts, but for featuring the work of modern Iroquois artists from the 1960s to the present day. In addition, however, the museum is home to a number of significant archaeological exhibits of substantial historical interest.

For more information, see the museum’s current collections for photos and detailed descriptions of the materials on display. The museum Facebook page is also well worth following.