While access to some emerging technologies is limited on reservations, due in part to a number of factors, including poverty, lack of library access, lack of infrastructure, etc., American Indian community members do engage in the use of emerging technologies, and, as they have done since time immemorial, they adapt these technologies to their needs.
Facebook is very popular, according to both my primary informant, D., and based on my personal observations. Many people utilize mobile apps, although perhaps not to the extent of the majority culture. The majority of these apps seem to be primarily geared toward socializing, however, socially acquired information is very important in this community. Information about major life events (births, marriages, deaths) in the community is often acquired through social means rather than any centralized distribution source.
Through a wellness program offered to tribal employees, many of whom are also tribal members, recently acquired FitBits, and took a step toward the “quantified self” mentioned in the Horizon Report. Community members engaged in friendly competition regarding the number of steps they had walked, a step toward greater community-wide health in a population with high levels of diabetes and other health concerns.
Additionally, community members may adapt existing technologies for new uses. Several weeks ago, I witnessed a community member come into our office with a communication assistive device. The device contains buttons and pictures, and is designed to help people who may have problems with verbal communication. However, the community member had repurposed the device to serve as a native language learning/preservation tool! Since it could record words for each of the pictures on the card (and you can pick your own images), she used it to record native language words and phrases, like a Walla Walla language See ‘n’ Say.
While the adoption of technology may be slower in Indian communities due to issues of funding and poverty, that doesn’t stop community members from adopting and engaging with new technology as it does become available, and when a technology fits their particular need, it will be used enthusiastically. At least until something better comes along!