The University of Oregon is hosting the Oregon Tribal Broadband Boot Camp this week, where approximately 50 tribal members from across Oregon and the Northwest learn the ins and outs of establishing and improving the internet infrastructure in tribal communities.
“This is the right place and the right time to bring like-minded tribal people to campus and get them to share their expertise and knowledge,” said Jason Younker, UO assistant vice president and advisor. of the President on sovereignty and government-to-government relations. . Younker is also Chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe, based in Coos Bay.
The training camp began Sunday with a group dinner at the Many Nations Longhouse and continues through Thursday. Topics include funding opportunities, network planning, opportunities to build cameras and fire towers, and technical know-how sessions on topics such as crimping and splicing cables.
The human networks being established are just as important as the technical knowledge imparted, said event organizer Matt Rantanen, chief technology officer for the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association and a member of the Cree tribe.
“Everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach,” he said.
At a similar training camp in California, members of neighboring Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk tribes formed relationships and are now working together and sharing resources for the first time, he said.
Rantanen also expressed his gratitude for the OU’s support in hosting Oregon’s training camp.
“Chief Younker’s support is unprecedented,” he said. “And it’s nice to see the participation of the tribes of Oregon.”
Oregon has begun applying for federal funds to help rural and tribal communities build broadband networks, but how much the state will receive has not yet been determined, said Daniel Holbrook, director of the Oregon Broadband Office. He said each state is set to receive more than $1 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure bill of 2021.
“We can’t afford to miss this opportunity,” Younker said. “We’re just trying to prepare the tribes for what’s possible when you build your networks.”
Internet connectivity has become an integral part of modern life, and something many people take for granted, but for people living in rural and tribal communities, it’s a luxury, he said. Especially during the pandemic, internet access was essential for distance learning, but for many tribesmen, broadband internet access was unavailable.
“That means you have two years of students who are behind and not ready to go to college,” he said.
“I would like the tribes to know that it doesn’t have to be that way,” he added. “There is help and technical expertise available at UO and we are ready to help in any way we can.
Boot camp funding comes from the Oregon Broadband Office, OU’s Network Startup Research Center, Tribal Digital Village Network, Link Oregon, Burns Paiute Tribe, First Nations Developmental Institute and others .
—By Tim Christie, University Communications