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Towards an Indigenous Vision for the Information Society

lundi 27 octobre 2003, par DEER Kenneth

  • Kenneth DEER
  • Indigenous Media Network, Editing Director and Focal Point for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
  • Box 1170, KAHNAWAKE Mohawk Territory, QC ; J0L 1BO, Canada
  • Tel. : +1-450-635-3050
  • Fax : +1-450-635-8479
  • e-mail :

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The very concept of the "Information Society" is in itself a cultural expression, developed in the context of the evolution of the industrial world into a "post-industrial" world. Also, its core elements - knowledge, information, communication and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) - are in fact culturally defined practices.

Societies with a different cultural, social and/or economic background, such as many Indigenous Peoples around the globe, are already affected by the dynamics of the emerging Information Society. So far, this is largely happing without them being part of developing its visions and philosophies, its implementations and applications. To become truly global, and to avoid a new level of assimilation, colonization and marginalization of Indigenous Peoples, the definition of what is to become the Information Society will also have to embrace and acknowledge Indigenous concepts and ideas.

In my contribution I will examine, how this goal can be reached. The analysis will be guided by some key questions :

- What is the special approach of Indigenous Peoples regarding the concepts of the terms "knowledge", "information", "communication" and "ICTs" ?

- Which aspects of their philosophies, practices and realities do Indigenous Peoples consider relevant for building and enriching the global Information Society, thus protecting and promoting its cultural diversity ?

- What do Indigenous Peoples view as challenges and potentials of the evolving Information Society towards their survival as Indigenous Peoples ?

- What kind of framework is needed to enable the participation of Indigenous Peoples in the Information Society on their own terms ?

- What are the parameters of Indigenous participation to ensure that utilization of new ICTs can take place in a way to enrich their cultures, strengthen their identities and improve their quality of life ?

- How can Indigenous Peoples develop their own approaches to bridge the digital divide ?

The paper will present a preliminary Indigenous approach for a policy on Indigenous Peoples and the Information Society together with some concrete steps for implementation, that will allow Indigenous Peoples to not only benefit from participation in the Information Society, but also to contribute their own visions and concepts to its evolution.

Curriculum Vitae

Kenneth Deer is co-founder, editing director and WSIS focal point of the Indigenous Media Network, an international organization of Indigenous media workers. He is the owner, publisher and editor of the weekly Mohawk community newspaper The Eastern Door, which he founded in 1992.

Since 1994 he is coordinator and often co-chairman of the Indigenous Caucus at the United Nations in Geneva. In 2000 he was chairman/rapporteur of the United Nations Workshop on Indigenous Media in New York. In 2002 he was Media Co-ordinator for the Indigenous Caucus at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. In 2003 he co-ordinated a study on Indigenous Peoples and the Information Society to produce an Indigenous position paper for the World Summit on the Information Society.

Kenneth Deer has a university education as a social councilor. From 1971-1987 he worked in Indigenous education, partly as the director of the Kahnawake Survival School. He is founding member of the First Nations Education Council of Quebec and the National Indian Education Council. From 1987-1990 he was Coordinator of the Mohawk Nation Office in Kahnawake, a secretariat of the People of the Longhouse (part of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy). From 1990 to 1992 he served as Traditional Chief of his community.

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