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77. Voices of Native and Indigenous People in Tech - Code[ish]


Esau Sanchez-Diaz is a Customer Success Director at Salesforce, and he is interviewing Amelia Winger-Bearskin, a developer evangelist at Contentful. Amelia Winger-Bearskin is a member of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma Deer Clan. She has been making art with computers for decades, starting with a Commodore 64 her father brought home one day. Amelia's work often examines the relationship between tech and her native roots. One such example is in her tribe's use of Wampum, which is a sort of contract recording all the activity between two nations. A wampum is comprised of beads of different colors which signal when and between whom an event. As a wampum can span many decades, Amelia relates it to something like the blockchain. Each transaction that occurs on the blockchain is immutable, and since it cannot be tampered with, a history of the movement of data is recorded for all participants.

Some of her projects, like the 3D Beadwork, are just a natural 21st century extension of traditional artisan practices. Through her work, Amelia has been able to build a large cohort with other indigenous people in tech. In order to amplify their visibility, she runs a podcast called Wampum.Codes about the projects they are building.

Mentorship is an important topic for Amelia. She's worked as a professor of animation, and is helping to show the newer generation that a career in the tech industry is possible. Her job as a developer evangelist has helped her hone the necessary skills of meeting strangers and finding common bonds with them. She views her outside mentorship as opportunities to transfer the knowledge she's gained in the industry and to become a good community member.

Links from this episode
  • is Amelia's podcast interviewing native and indigenous people making cool things with new technologies
  • The Co-Creation Studio at MIT Open Documentary Lab researches and incubates alternatives to a singular authorial vision, through a constellation of media methods
  • AISES is a national, nonprofit organization focused on substantially increasing the representation of indigenous peoples of North America in STEM studies and careers
  • Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences
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    77. Voices of Native and Indigenous People in Tech - Code[ish]