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ASU, National Congress of American Indians launch tribal digital sovereignty center

The American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University announced the launch of the  Center for Tribal Digital Sovereignty, the first and only of its kind in the U.S.

Digital sovereignty is a relatively new concept and means nations or communities independently managing their online spaces and data without external oversight.

According to AIPI Director Traci Morris, it’s a longstanding conversation with research and advocacy efforts that date back decades.

“It's everything from the nation's digital plan and footprint to managing their data to the network infrastructure to capacity building,” she said of digital sovereignty. “It's an umbrella term.”

While they can standardize some resources, Morris emphasized the importance of listening to tribes.  

“A lot of this is going to be listening and then tailored responses to what to what communities need specifically,” she said, “and that will come through the partnership and the facilitation that NCAI brings to the table.”

AIPI will collaborate with the National Congress of American Indians, she said, to ensure the center’s effectiveness.

“By the university affiliating with an organization embedded in Indian country,” said Morris, “it gets us in the place to listen and hear what tribes need.”

Together, Morris said they’ll work to deliver assistance to Tribal Nations with a variety of strategies from facilitating networking opportunities to funding guidance for Tribal governments and communities to develop individual digital sovereignty plans.

Digital sovereignty, she added, is a new frontier where Indigenous Peoples have had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor that historically, they haven’t always.

“We can actually be proactive from the get go with the work that we do in communities,” said Morris. “And so that has really been game-changing.”

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.