*Sample* Reservation Finds Future For Youth After ITDRC Connectivity – Tribes Fight For Their Children To Have Access To The Internet *Sample*
Welcome to the Big World Of The Wide Web
MelvinJohn Ashue sniffs and looks away.
“It works,” says ITDRC technician Bless Booth, “Nice and strong, should cover this whole area.”
Lowering his hat, MelvinJohn apologizes for becoming emotional, as Booth points to the full bars of Wifi on his phone.
MJ peeks at the phone and steps back.
“Oh man,” he says holding back tears, “you just don’t know what this is going to mean, this is going to mean so much for our youth.”
The only Internet available on the Hoh reservation, in Washington, was in the admin office, where the council meets. The rest of the land, about 1600 acres, is dead space for cell phones.
MJ would arrive at the admin building for meetings, always to find the “rez teenagers” sitting on the wood steps near the front door.
The Internet provided to the admin building is equivalent to dial up, and most families on the reservation don’t own a computer.
If you own a computer, they (the teens) know, MJ jokes.
MJ is a member of the council for the Hoh tribe, he has acted as vice chair for seven years. And has been fighting for better Internet since 2012.
“The Internet means a lot to our youth, they know what it can do for them,” he explains, “When I would arrive for meetings, there they are, they would beg, please don’t make us get off the Internet.”
Without a chief to speak for the Hoh tribe, the help is slow to come. And without proper Internet the tribe is limited on the grants they can apply for.
MJ triple checks this new connectivity, like he has been doing since the team arrived.
“What do we have to do to use it?” MJ asks, looking for the catch.
“Well, just click right there where it says Homework Hotspot and boom, you’re on,” says Booth.
“So, this is for the Hoh tribe?” asks MJ.
“It’s your’s man, whatever you want to do on the Internet, you can do,” says Booth.
MJ stares at the connection on Booth’s phone and pulls his phone out of his back pocket.
“So, it will work on my phone right now?” And for the first time, the WiFi tower lights up on MJ’s phone.
Just like that he is connected to the world, his tribe stands a chance.
He starts rattling them off:
“We can sell our carvings online!”
“We can share our boat races with other tribes.”
“This is really going to change how many grants we can apply for.”
A long fight has wrapped up for the Hoh Tribe and the man behind the path towards broadband can hardly believe he’s connected his people.
MJ asked for broadband in 2012, through a grant. The prison 12 miles down the road also asked for Internet.
The prison got what they asked for and the reservation waited another eight years.
MJ was furious.
“Prisoners have better Internet than my children” says MJ.
ITDRC is working with 31 tribal nations across 11 states to help connect reservations to the Internet and bridge the broadband divide across the country through its projectConnect initiative.
The digital divide has always been felt by communities like the Hoh, but COVID-19 lock down has amplified just how undeserved they are.
The kids who live on the reservation have missed months of school. And while distance learning has been a strain on all families, studies show students with connectivity may only be a few months behind when school starts again.
While those in undeserved communities, without broadband or technology, could be a year behind come August.
The new connectivity will help tribes fight COVID-19 as numbers continue to rise among natives.
The tribes will be able to use the Internet for telehealth, collect data of those infected, and give native children a chance to learn from home.
“I wish the government would do more to include everybody,” MJ says “We’ve all felt like we’ve been left out, you guys are the first ones to help us.”