Cornell’s American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program and the Redistributive Computing Systems Group (RCSG) will present a series of talks this Friday exploring the intersection of Indigenous worldviews and computational technologies.
“Indigenous Computing” will be held 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 28, in Gates Hall 114, with a virtual attendance option via Zoom. The event includes talks from Indigenous people working in computer science, information science, and genetics. Registration is encouraged.
“Indigenous people need technologies designed with, by, and in support of our unique lived experiences, identities, knowledge, beliefs, and politics,” said Marina Johnson-Zafiris, a member of the Mohawk Nation and a doctoral student in the field of information science. “As we will see through the speakers, this materializes in different ways – through our interventions, as models, as apps, as protocols – each of them representing our own understandings of Native sovereignty and Indigenous futures.”
Johnson-Zafiris will present “Computing Along the Two Row,” a reference to the treaty between the Haudenosaunee and European colonial settlers recorded in a purple and white beaded belt called the Two Row wampum belt.
Western science has been incredibly successful by adopting a universalist approach – traditionally, good scientists check their identity at the door, said Christopher Csíkszentmihályi, associate professor of information science in the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science and RCSG director.
“While this works well for physics, it creates many problems when science rubs up against the human realm,” he said. “Applied technology like computation benefits when diverse perspectives and experiences are mindfully brought to bear in its creation and implementation.”
“One of the central motivations in the creation of this event is to highlight Native people in the field of computing, a space we have largely been invisibilized,” Johnson-Zafiris said. “Our work provides critical interventions that center principles of relationship and accountability, principles that must come to the forefront of computer and information science research.”
The full schedule is as follows:
1:30 p.m. – Welcome “Indigenous Computing” from Troy Richardson (Saponi/Tuscarora), associate professor of philosophy of education and American Indian and Indigenous Studies at Cornell
1:45 p.m. – “Computing Along the Two Row” by Marina Johnson-Zafiris (Mohawk), doctoral student in the field of information science at Cornell
2:15 p.m. – “Indigenous Language AI” by Daniela Ramos Ojeda (Nahua) ‘25, a computer science major at Cornell
2:45 p.m. – “Developing a Nahuatl Language Translator” by Eduardo Lucero, professor at the Tecnologico Nacional de Mexico, Apizaco, and Sergio Khalil Bello García, senior iOS software engineer at Bitso
3:15 p.m. – “Cultivating Connection: Understanding Relatedness and Kin within Maize Quantitative Genetics” by Merritt Khaipho-Burch (Oglala), doctoral student in the field of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell
3:45 p.m. – “Modeling Dispossession, Youth Homelessness, and Integrated Climate Assessments with and for Indigenous Communities” by Mike Charles (Diné), Cornell Provost’s New Faculty Fellow and incoming assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering
4 p.m. – Closing comments on Indigenous protocol
4:20 p.m. – Coffee and extended discussions