UNM To Bring Wireless Technology to Navajos
Students in many remote areas of the Navajo reservation still live traditional lives with little -- if any -- access to electricity, land and cell phones, the internet, and public television. Due to the rugged terrain and winter weather conditions in many areas, many of those students often miss school because they simply can't get there. The UNM Health Sciences Center is joining a broad-based public/private partnership to bring wireless internet access to the reservation.
The Internet to the Hoganpartnership is being spearheaded by State Senator Leonard Tsosie of Crownpoint. He says he imagines a day when Navajo students will be able to see a bilingual Big Bird, who will help Navajo children maintain and develop literacy in both Navajo and English languages.
Compared to other groups, New Mexico 's Native American student population have greater dropout rates and limited number of students graduating from college. Limited science and technology resources have been major factors in creating those disparities.
Senator Tsosie's vision of the project began when he learned of several independent efforts taking place to provide technology resources to Navajo teachers, parents and students via the internet, phone and television access.
During the series ofInternet to the Hoganmeetings held from June to December 2005, participants representing state government, tribal government and the private sector worked together to identify shared resources and cost savings in order to construct a robust and reliable wireless telecommunication grid system for Northwestern New Mexico . The overall project includes wireless applications, digital television, telehealth resources, culturally relevant programming, distance learning and technical support.
"Wireless connectivity will also help Navajo mid and high school students learn about health careers and provide access to curriculum, such as advanced placement courses in Math and Sciences," said Valerie Romero Leggott, M.D., associate dean of the UNM School of Medicine Office of Diversity.
TheInternet to the HoganInitiative creates an electronic highway to Navajo hogans. It's a highway designed to add resources without taking away from the Navajo way of life," Dr. Dale Alverson, M.D., director for the UNM Center for Telehealth, "This effort compliments other state initiatives, while making it possible to deliver services in both Navajo and English," he added.
Recognizing the need to insure that New Mexico 's Navajo students are not left behind in the evolving digital world, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has expressed his support for funding a two year project. The group is also investigating a number of state and private sources of funding for the initiative.
Partners for the Internet to the Hogans Collaborative are:
UNM Center for Native American Health (CNAH)
University of New Mexico Center for Telehealth
UNM School of Medicine Office of Diversity
Crownpoint Institute of Technology (CIT)
Navajo Nation Department of Information Technology (NNDIT)
Navajo Nation Division of Community Development (NNDCD)
Navajo Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC)
Navajo Area Indian Health Service (NIHS)
Navajo School Board Association (NSBA)
Navajo Nation Communications & Utilities (NNCU)
Navajo Education Technology Consortium (NETC)
Navajo Nation White Rock Chapter, Educational Funding Group (EFG)
Ramah Navajo School Board
Tribal Libraries Program of the New Mexico State Library
Native American Television Network (NATVN)
Gallup Mckinley County Schools
Wingate High School
Sacred Wind Communication Inc.
Edgenet Technologies, Inc.
Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322