On October 15-16, Andrea Alexander (Makah) will be a featured speaker at the “Taking Smoke Signals Digital” Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip, WA.

Andrea Alexander has over 30 years experience of development in the native community and runs her own business, Energy Innovation Foundation. Her firm provides strategic planning and project development for Tribal governments and non-profit organizations. Andrea Alexander has been a native community activist for 10 years for telecommunications and energy and stays current on the policy & programs that impacts the tribes.

Andrea Alexander commented on the problem facing native communities: The lack of reliable broadband has an adverse impact on the many services each Tribal government has to deliver in aspects of healthcare, education, transportation and commerce.

According to Andrea, “My tribe doesn’t have full access to broadband. The current policy depends on the private sector to build the infrastructure, but if the population is too small, the investment will not happen. It’s a huge problem and we’re in a huge crisis situation. The fact that our children can’t take the required state tests because we don’t have 4G has helped to motivate leadership to take action and give new to life to this important policy issue. We are seeking economic parity to broadband to gain full access to the internet as well as broader cell phone coverage for all rural tribal communities.”

Andrea has served as the Director of Energy for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Deputy Director for the Washington State Office on Indian Affairs, and her own tribe, the Makah Nation to create public/private partnerships in the Northwest. As the current Co-Chair for the ATNI Telecommunications Committee, she hopes the conference attendees will help:

“Recruit new stakeholders to this issue that will travel to Tulalip and learn about our issues. The conference location will help attract active allies willing to help northwest native people address the growing technology issues we face. We need help in building a broad-based, diverse movement committed to solving the lack of connectivity. In today’s world, all services and businesses are dependent on the internet and without it the people who live and work in these areas are at a distinct disadvantage. The fact that we still have large areas without broadband service is a form of economic racism and is essentially redlining these communities.”

“On October 16, there will be an ATNI Technology Committee work session to bring the common policy issues to light and build the necessary consensus to create strategies to overcome obstacles in the technology field. Once we get people to agree on the problem, then we can work on developing a shared strategy to overcome any barriers. Funding for broadband initiatives is our biggest challenge right now; the lack of funds and the high level of complexity in the application process is one area we can address right away. We have a short game and long game for policy change. As northwest native people, we linked to our sense of place – we will always be here. I have been taught by my Elders, success is not just about big money or big politics, it is also being committed to hanging in over the long haul. We always look forward to the great hospitality of our Tulalip brothers and sisters & thanks to all the organizers”.

Andrea gained her philanthropic experience through the First Nations Development Institute, than as the Director of Grants for Social Justice Fund Northwest, as a volunteer for the

Philanthropy Northwest Grantmakers of Color and as the founder for the Potlatch Fund. Here are her comments about the need for new funding for technology training programs.

“We need new sources of funding so any rural community, tribal or not can apply to get access to technology training. Technology is changing so rapidly and a native led effort will ensure we can keep up. We are developing the Tribal Technology Training Program or T3 to educate people at the grass roots level with tech skills that will support their educational and employment potential. One of the main outcomes I’d like to see is direct financial support for T3 initiatives. The technology training needs to happen now.”

Andrea Alexander and her husband Mike, a Haida tribal member, along with their 13 year old daughter, Antonia, reside in the Seattle area.

For further information contact Andrea Alexander, aalexander795@gmail.com.