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Native Youth Digital Indianpreneurship
Creating a Cultural Shift Toward Sustainable Sovereignty
http://lone-eagles.com/indianpreneurship.htm by Frank Odasz


On National Native Radio recently www.indiancountry.com  the call in question was – “Can a 21st century indian still be traditional - and how would you define a traditional indian in the 21st century?”  Callers phoned in from remote locations in Alaska and New Mexico offering different perspectives. In one perspective, those with running water and electricity are too convenienced to be considered traditional. In another, any indian who honors and lives by traditional values can be considered traditional despite modern conveniences and lifestyle.


Native youth today, particularly on rural reservations live in a culture resulting from generations of destructive outside influences from the dominant culture. Reservation communities suffer from generations of dysfunctional families with wide-ranging social problems as norm. The majority of peers drop out of school. Families are started, too often based on the incentive of a welfare income. Much of the modern culture they see daily is one of cyclic dysfunction.


External efforts such as the Sloan Foundation’s careers site http://careercornerstone.org share information on careers typically found only off the reservation and often requiring extensive education. Such sites offer few careers suitable for living on the reservation.


One of the more significant trends as high speed Internet is slowly becoming more accessible is the growth of Internet self-employment options regarding global ecommerce as well as telework jobs for distant corporations of all sizes.


As the first digital generation, youth are eager to learn all they can about computers and emerging digital technologies, but local expertise is severely limited and school computer labs are locked up at the end of the school day. Youth need after school educational and recreational program alternatives with constructive digital learning centers to spend their time engaging the social and entrepreneurial potential of digital media technologies.


Youth need to see new alternatives modeled by peers if a cultural shift is to occur.  Youth’s view of the outside world comes from TV, and more and more, from the Internet and online videos. It has become viable to bring youth the best innovations and opportunities as they emerge globally for Internet self-employment, digital storytelling, and building local social, cultural, and economic capacity while learning to be self-employed “Making the Living They Want, Living Wherever They Want.”


Native reservations have one big advantage, 52% of their populations are under the age of 20. The developable potential of their first digital generation is more than double that of non-Native rural communities. And this percentage is similar to that of most third world populations.


Designing a 3-5 year program to create a measurable and fundamental shift toward a self-sufficient culturally appropriate entrepreneurial culture has become quite viable, with immediate global implications. Native youth media programs are already co-emerging nationally. Such programs combined with new technologies such as Internet-based TV can provide the opportunity for youth to self-publish their own digital stories and videos of the future they’d like to help create for their local communities.


As they identify native ecommerce and telework success stories to tell via new media, the opportunity exists for replacing the dominant culture’s TV and Internet media with one of their own creation. Teaching entrepreneurship starting at the primary grade level allows the next generation the opportunity to grow up with entrepreneurship as a lifelong option.


We’re not talking about the dominant culture’s style of entrepreneurship, but of something uniquely native, “indianpreneurship” where priorities are not individual success only, but social entrepreneurship where others also benefit. There are many emerging trends which resonate with Native cultural priorities, the youth-driven social networking phenomena of MySpace and YouTube alone suggest fundamentally new social and business models are emerging. Peer-mediated skills transfer can be formalized by focusing on providing the tools and training to replicate Indianpreneurship successes.


How we share new knowledge and digital capabilities with peers and establish new personal and group identities is evolving rapidly, keeping pace with dramatically expanding new ways to learn, to support one another, and more pointedly to establish a voice and mechanism for organizing major local and global change.


The potential emerging here is to engage youth-driven social networks to generate a buzz regarding lifestyle entrepreneurs showing real life alternative lifestyles. Gathering national youth Internet entrepreneurship success stories is likely to be a timely and instant success; focusing on lifestyle entrepreneurs and making a life while making a living. Native youth could lead a local media movement showing these purposeful lifestyle alternatives - bringing all local citizens new awareness by modeling new knowledge focused on real world services, and capabilities.

Combining themes from the books, “The Rise of The Creative Class,” “The World is Flat,” and “Freeagent Nation,” youth could provide the tribe with video Public Service Announcements, and new media promoting a new vision for tribes. Youth could do short screenplays showcasing existing and potential 21st century electronic warriors, Native womens’ entreneurship networks, and new adaptations to sustain their traditional values and culture.


The following proposed project model is the direct result for the Community Ecommerce Incubator pilot project conducted by the Fort Peck Enterprise Community Fall 2007.


Four Boys/girls clubs in rural reservation communities have 8 computers each. A Montana Media Arts project www.mediarts.org  is looking for trainers to teach video production skills. Combined with the Indianpreneurship curriculum and support organizations listed below, youth will showcase existing Montana rural ecommerce and telework innovations via Internet TV sites and systems. More successes like such as www.nativeamericanjobs.com which brings in $4000/month, are at


This service learning cultural media project will include preserving oral histories of elders, engaging local businesses in establishing a web presence, and much more.
(Summarized at http://lone-eagles.com/youthskills.htm) The volunteers media products will establish portfolios for youths new media skills to create fast-track income producing social entrepreneurship businesses to establish a culturally appropriate entrepreneurial culture in the short term.


Local economic development organizations will create a replicable model for a fast-track Native American Ecommerce business incubator and expand the local knowledge base with new knowledge of real Internet self-employment options validating proven success stories, successful training models, and unique support services suitable for widespread replication.


Global ecommerce markets are now accessible due to increasing Internet access on Native American reservations making it increasingly viable to live on a rural reservation while conducting business via global ecommerce and working for distant corporations via telework.


However, the current level of awareness for how to tap into the booming global ecommerce markets is minimal on rural Native American reservations. New tools and services have created many easy and low-cost entry-level opportunities for “Indianpreneurs.” It is now possible for those who are behind in participation in global ecommerce to “leapfrog” ahead of the mainstream, despite rural and remote locations, once Internet access and appropriate training become available.


The Native American cultural priorities of supporting family and community above individualism promises to leverage a unique integration of the recent social networking, ecommerce, and telework phenomena. Bill Gates in his book “The Road Ahead” identifies the three big economic growth areas as entertainment, social services, and education. Combined these suggest “fun, social, learning” in the context of peer-mediated skills transfer and virtual community building have unlimited economic as well as global social potential.

A minimum of five years would be required to create a significant cultural shift toward an online entrepreneurial culture on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The following five-year proposal is designed to be immediately replicable for all other American Indian reservations with an emphasis on measurable outcomes, the authenticity of widespread citizen participation, specifics of skills transferred and number of local mentors and mentees, and validated Ecommerce success stories.


The need exists to address the phenomenal explosion of bottom-up technology innovation regarding rural ecommerce and telework which is coming from early adapters in nearly every rural community. The traditional rural development culture has yet to accept the Internet as viable conduit to the global economy. While other countries are rapidly homesteading the Ecommerce frontier, rural Americans, and rural Native American communities in particular, have yet to identify their opportunities tapping into global markets represented by one billon persons online today, with six billion more coming in the next couple decades.

While the Montana Business Technology incubator focuses on high-end, top-down, research and development stemming from the NASA space program, the need exists for an equally aggressive incubator focusing on the bottom-up technology innovations for rural ecommerce and telework. The diversity of success stories is growing rapidly as free online tools and increased rural bandwidth proliferate. Examples at http://lone-eagles.com/mainstream.htm


Ecommerce Update from Economist Magazine

The world Internet population will hit two billion by 2011, mostly from developing countries such as India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and China. In 2007, the number of Chinese with broadband will equal the number of Americans, 79 million. Business to consumer online sales will grow from $172 Billion in 2005 to $329 Billion in 2010, 14%/yr. European online shopping will grow from 100m to 174m and average yearly internet retail spending will grow from around $1,250 to $1,800/year.


By 2010, European marketers will spend $88 billion on emarketing. Mobile commerce via cell phones will be worth $88 billion by 2009. Europeans will make 28 million mobile transactions a year by 2009, fuelled by growing volumes of mobile micropayments. 


Rural Telework Projected to Become Mainstream

16% of American workers in 2007 are already involved with telework. 40% savings has compelled IBM to shift their entire workforce to telework – saving one billion a year. The federal government services agency has announced a 2 billion dollar telework initiative to realize major federal savings via telework. Oracle software packages streamline the process for corporations to train, manage, and monitor quality of teleworkers. Termed remote home agents, the following article expands on the benefits of hiring rural teleworkers.  The following article provides details:

American Rural Teleworkers:  Great Employees, Lower Costs


Addendum: Summary of the Fort Peck Community Ecommerce Incubator Pilot Project Proposal.  Full text at http://lone-eagles.com/fort-peck.htm

The People and businesses on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeast Montana are enabled with high-speed Internet via wireless and DSL. They recognize that they share a common problem: their citizens don’t know how to turn high-speed Internet access into economic and social value. Instead of outsourcing our jobs to countries that teach Ecommerce and telework skills, we need to generate this capacity in all our own rural communities. 


The following Community Ecommerce Incubator will involve the entire community with awareness raising events showcasing use of multimedia to preserve elder’s wisdom, a social recognition program for those with technology skills who are willing to train others. Multigenerational partnerships between youth and elders will explore together the entrepreneurial potential of web-based cultural expression, digital storytelling, global trade, and global online collaboration. Community partners will include K12 schools, Alternative schools, the Fort Peck Community College, the Boys/Girls clubs, economic development organizations and local NGOs.

To establish new awareness and new learning relationships, our solution will be to create a replicable “Community Ecommerce Awareness Campaign” in partnership with establishing an “Ecommerce and Telework Incubator Center.”


“Community Ecommerce Awareness Campaigns” will include: 

1.   Multiple events including multimedia presentations on what’s already working in other rural communities. 

2.   Online lessons on Ecommerce and telework entrepreneurship based on proven success stories and strategies.   

3.   Creation of a Community Mentors’ Guide to generate fast-track e-business skills to create multiple self-employment businesses. 


 “Ecommerce and Telework Incubator Centers”
will be created to assist the community in initiating the following entry-level Ecommerce activities: 


1.  Entry-level online auction and Ecommerce services to engage potential new
2.  Fast-track e-business skill development to include entry-level online auction
                 and Ecommerce entrepreneurship training. 
3.  Creation of an Ecommerce incubator (e-mall) to bring local new and existing
                 businesses online. 
4.  E-marketing initiatives for the community, its new Ecommerce businesses
                 Example http://deltadiscovery.com/Shopping/shoppingalpha.html

            The initial attraction of the “Incubator Centers” will be demonstration of how online auctions can easily turn common items into cash to generate self-employment businesses; employability skills using digital photography, art, and music; and learning to “learn and earn” in a friendly, non-threatening environment.  Continuing motivation and enthusiasm will be ongoing as people begin to tutor/mentor others, develop new for-profit services and develop and sell new products via online auctions, e-malls, and individual web sites.