Native Nations Day at the FCC

Following up on last month’s blog, which provided a short overview of Native American Telecom Issues, is this review of a historic event held on March 3, 2011, at the Federal Communications Commission, Native Nations Day.  This open commission meeting was an example of the FCC’s expanding commitment to Indian Country, which started with the establishment of the Office of Native Affairs and Policy (ONAP), last summer.  The entire staffs of ONAP, multiple FCC offices and all FCC Commissioners were in attendance.   Even more exciting to see, was the room filled to capacity with Native folks, Tribal organizations, and Tribal Leaders.

This well attended event included nearly sixty people who in some way represented Tribes and RSVP’d to the NCAI and FCC Native Nations Day notices. Additionally, there were more than one hundred and fifty total attendees including tribal members, organizations, media, FCC staff, attorneys and others who regularly attend FCC meetings.  The response in Indian Country and beyond has been encouraging.

The purpose of the day, according to the FCC, was part of a “renewed focus on initiatives that will help expand access to vital communications, including broadband, wireless and radio services in native communities across the United States.”  There were tribal leader presentations, FCC office presentations and afternoon nation-to-nation consultation sessions.

Tribal leaders speaking at the event included Jefferson Keel, NCAI President and Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation; Honorable Susie Allen of the Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation; Chairman Robert Smith of the Pala Band of Cupeño Indians and Chair of the Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Association; and Lt. Governor Joseph Manuel of the Gila River Indian Community.  Jefferson Keel spoke broadly about the priorities of Native America with regard to telecommunications and effective consultations. He further talked about the need for tribal centric solutions and a tribal broadband fund to aid in deployment and adoption of broadband in Indian country. The Honorable Susie Allen reminded the FCC of its trust responsibility and stated “we remain unserved and underserved at Colville. [It took] 47 years to deliver telephone service to reservation families; infrastructure is antiquated.”  Chairman Smith of Pala said “rules have a drastic effect on spectrum on our tribal lands. We need a better way to obtain spectrum for tribal lands.”  Lt. Governor Manuel of Gila River Indian Community spoke of the importance of the Universal Service Fund especially with regard to emergency services, stating, “Basic and enhanced 911 service should be implemented on tribal lands through USF.”  Gila River Telecommunications, Inc. provides 911 to its own community, where other providers failed to do so, referencing the many tribal lands that do not have basic 911 services.

In addition to the Tribal speakers, there were other Tribal leaders and tribal representatives in attendance, including the Honorable Joe Garcia (Ohkay Owingeh), Carroll Onsae (Hopi Tribe) and representatives from the Chickasaw Nation, Pala Tribe, Gila River Indian Community, and others.

Some of the organizations that were in attendance included the National Tribal Telecommunications Association, Gila River Telecommunications, Inc., National Congress of American Indians, Native Public Media, and Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Association.  In addition, there was live blogging and tweeting of this event by organizations such as the Center for Media Justice. In Native Public Media’s press release,Loris Taylor stated “We’ve achieved a significant amount of traction in our partnership with the FCC and our work on Universal Service Reform and the implementation of the National Broadband Plan is made easier with tribal representation on the Task Force, with the support of the Commissioners and with the valued coordination of these issues internally at the FCC by the Office of Native Affairs and Policy,” Taylor said. “While we’ve come a long way, this is just the beginning and it is up to tribal members to help forge and decide how we want to shape the consultation process and how we want to empower our own efforts so that Native Americans have access to essential technological services.”  Other press included Sarah Jerome’s article in The Hill.

Actions taken at the morning meeting by the FCC included the unanimous adoption of three items that will increase telecommunications services in tribal areas:

1.  A Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on improving communications services for Native Nations that seeks comment on a number of issues, including greater broadband deployment, the need for a uniform definition of Tribal lands to be used agency-wide in rulemakings, and the importance of strengthening the FCC’s nation-to-nation consultation process with Native Nations.

2.   A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on ways to expand the efficient use of spectrum over Tribal lands so as to improve access to mobile wireless communications, which will provide consumers with more choices on how they communicate, share information and get their news.

3.  A Second Report and Order, First Order on Reconsideration, and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that will help expand opportunities for Tribal entities to provide broadcast radio services to Native communities.

During the afternoon of the Native Nations Day events at the FCC, Chairman Julius Genachowski named 30 members to serve on a new FCC-Native Nations Broadband Task Force.  This Task Force includes elected and appointed leaders from various Native Nations and FCC senior staff.  ONAP Chief, Geoffrey Blackwell will serve as co-chair and another co-chair will be elected from the group.  Responsibilities of this new Task Force will include assisting the Commission in developing and executing the tribal consultation policy and gaining input of Native Nations related to FCC proceedings regarding broadband deployment and adoption on Tribal lands.

Appointed individuals include:

·       Honorable Susie Allen: Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

·       Honorable Marlin Fryberg: Tulalip Tribes

·       Honorable Joe Garcia: Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo

·       Honorable Jeffrey Harjo: Seminole Nation of Oklahoma

·       Honorable Bradley John: Seneca Nation of Indians

·       Honorable Bill Kekahbah: Kaw Nation

·       Honorable Joseph Manuel: Gila River Indian Community

·       Honorable Jim Shakespeare: Northern Arapaho Tribe

·       Mark Bilton-Smith: Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians

·       Lewis Christman: Tule River Indian Tribe

·       Valerie Fast Horse: Coeur d’Alene Tribe

·       Debby Gallenberg: Sokaogon Chippewa Community

·       Pearl Mikulski: Kawerak

·       Carroll Onsae: Hopi Tribe

·       Matthew Rantanen: Pala Band of Mission Indians

·       Brian Tagaban: Navajo Nation

·       Michael White: Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma

·       James Williams: Tanana Chiefs Conference

·       Michelle York: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

·       Chairman Geoffrey Blackwell: Office of Native Affairs and Policy

·       Irene Flannery: Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

·       David Furth: Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

·       Jane Jackson: Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

·       Elise Kohn: Wireline Competition Bureau

·       Mark Lloyd: Office of General Counsel

·       Kris Monteith: Media Bureau

·       Robert Nelson: International Bureau

·       Jamison Prime: Office of Engineering and Technology

·       Thomas Reed: Office of Communications Business Opportunities

·       Suzanne Tetreault: Enforcement Bureau


This post was originally written for NAMAC

Published by Traci L. Morris

Dr. Morris, the Director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. Under her leadership, the AIPI has grown and diversified its service to Indian Country via an MOU formalizing a long-standing partnership with the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) and forming the Tribal Economic Leadership Program offering training in Tribal Economic Governance and Tribal Financial Management; access to Entrepreneurship training and tribal business support through Inno-Nations; and Economic Development Consulting; and, the formalization of the Institute via by-laws and an advisory board comprised of both internal ASU leadership and external tribal and non-tribal leadership. In her work at both ASU and prior, Morris has worked with Native American tribes; Tribal businesses; Native American non-profits; Native media makers, artists, and galleries; written a college-accredited curriculum in Native American new media; and has advocated for digital inclusion at the Federal Communications Commission and on Capitol Hill. Morris’s research and publications on Native American media and the digital divide is focused on Internet use, digital inclusion, network neutrality, digital and new media curriculums, digital inclusion and development of broadband networks in Indian Country. Her book, Native American Voices: A Reader, continues to be a primary teaching tool in colleges throughout the country. Dr. Morris is Affiliated Faculty at ASU's School for the Future of Innovation in Society, an Affiliate of ASU's Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology, a Senior Sustainability Scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, President of the Board of the Phoenix Indian Center, Board member of the Arizona American Indian Chamber of Commerce, and on the Advisory Council of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums. Formerly, Morris served member of the Advisory Board for the Department of Labor's Native American Employment and Training Council and served a two-year appointment (2014-2016 and 2010-2012) on the Federal Communications Commission's Consumer Advisory Committee. As an entrepreneur prior to her ASU appointment, Morris founded Homahota Consulting LLC, a national Native American woman-owned professional services firm working in policy analysis, telecommunications, education, and research assisting tribes in their nation-building efforts and working with Native Nations, tribal businesses and those businesses working with tribes. Morris has an M. A. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona’s American Indian Studies, in addition to a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Colorado State University.

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