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The Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada, is integrating Traditional Knowledge into an AI-based tool to track salmon migration to help them assert their land rights and steward fishery resources in their territories. Indigenous Rights Radio Program Coordinator, Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan), recently spoke with William Housty (Heiltsuk), Associate Director of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, about the project.


In our time of great technological leaps, Artificial Intelligence can seem at once fearsome and awe-inspiring— no less so for Indigenous Peoples seeking to protect their communities from potential dangers yet also have access to the benefits of such advancements on their own terms. Professor Amelia Winger-Bearskin (Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma), Banks Family Chair of AI and the Arts at the University of Florida Digital Worlds Institute, is a foremost expert in the field.


Where are we, the world’s Indigenous Peoples, going to be in the age of Artificial Intelligence? What will be our situation as Artificial Intelligence becomes an everyday reality for those of us, the “othered,” who have been left out of rooms and histories and memories? Historically oppressed and politically disenfranchised, Indigenous Peoples have served as test subjects for centuries of systemic silencing and dehumanization.


The age of the merging of the human experience with technology is upon us; that inevitable slope of what is produced by the mind intertwined with a soul vs. the mind of a machine taught by a soul. As a 32-year-old visual artist/activist from Cape Town, I feel the century’s urge to create at the speed of light and an urgent shift in the way we pursue our collective healing, made more pressing following the devastating impact that 300 years of colonization and 46 years of Apartheid has had on the people of South Africa.


Many Indigenous languages do not have a large canon of written literature, and because of that, they are often and wrongly referred to as oral languages. Every Indigenous culture has its own form of literature and means of conveying knowledge through its language; most Indigenous languages have had a written form, often with a non-alphabetical system that was eradicated by colonization. In recent decades, many Indigenous Peoples have resumed their written tradition, either through recovering their ancient writing systems or by adapting to the alphabet of the colonial language dominant in their region.


Lilian Nguracha Balanga (Samburu) is from the traditionally pastoralist community of Samburu in the North Rift in north-central Kenya. The community moves from place to place in search of pasture and water but now also does some small-scale organic farming. In Samburu culture, wildlife stewardship is entrusted to women, who share with their community where wildlife and other resources are most prominent. Four years ago, Nguracha founded Women Conserve, a grassroots organization based in Samburu that works to elevate women’s leadership and voices in environmental conservation through providing access to education and tools to protect their animals and local environments. She continues that work through the development of the Naapu Ntomonok (Uplifting Women) App.


Maaxïnkojm/Santa María Ocotepec is the name of my town. Located in the Sierra Mixe in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, it is a community on the slopes of the sacred Cempoaltepetl Mountain with a population of approximately 300 people. Maaxïnkojm is situated among banana groves and citrus trees; it is a town with a lot of vegetation because it rains almost all year round. The language we speak is Ayöök and belongs to the Mixe-Zoque linguistic family.


It’s 2010, late into the night, and my best friend and I load up a multiplayer game of “Gears of War 2” to play deathmatches into the next morning. While it was just the two of us, we were never alone—Tai Kaliso was always there as well. With his mohawk, facial tattoos, heavy accent, and dark brown skin, there was another Indigenous person in the room, shining bright through the pixelated screen of the television.


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