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Diversity and Inclusion

Sharing knowledge this Native American Heritage Month

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I am a proud tribal member of Doyon, one of the 12 Alaska Native regional corporations. Unlike the “lower 48” states, Alaskan Native tribes are organized as incorporated entities. My family has lived and fished in Alaska for generations; we have a fish camp on the Yukon River where we come together every summer to live off the land, with no running water, no electricity and no access except by boat. Growing up each summer on the Yukon has taught me the importance of knowledge sharing—passing traditions and customs from one generation to the next. 

As a Googler, I’ve never lost sight of this, and continue sharing knowledge with those around me. This October, I partnered with my tribe to create a robotics workshop with the Google American Indian Network, an employee resource group made up of Googlers from across the company who are passionate about making an impact for indigenous communities. Software engineers from Google traveled all the way from California to Fairbanks, Alaska to facilitate robotics lessons for a group of Alaskan Native high school students from villages across the Interior. Using robotics kits, these students coded and competed in four back-to-back competitions over the course of three days.

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    The author, Googler Ben Fate Velaise, worked with student Shauna to build hardware designed to shield their robot from invaders in preparation for a “capture the flag” competition. 

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    Googler Chad Talbott works with student Dontae to code his robot’s trajectory. Dontae’s team won second place in the first competition.

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    Googlers and Doyon employees stand with student attendees in the lobby of Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center toward the end of the three-day workshop.

This is just one of the several ways Google, and the people who work here, are honoring Indigenous communities, especially now during Native American Heritage Month. The Doodle team kicked off the month with a Doodle honoring Will Rogers, a Cherokee Nation member and champion of positive political commentary and aviation. The Google Arts and Culture team shared a story about Rogers’ legacy, and held a special interview with currently elected Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. at Google’s offices in Mountain View. 

Will Rogers Google Doodle

Just last month, we celebrated a partnership between the Google American Indian Network and Celilo Village, a Native American community on the Columbia River, where we were able to bring Wi-Fi to its residents. This project is a positive step forward to improve the digital divide between urban and rural communities, which is especially apparent for Native communities across the country.

Earlier this year, Google Earth launched a project enabling people to meet—and hear—more than 50 Indigenous speakers from around the globe, including a Cherokee speaker from Oklahoma and a Karuk speaker and Central Pomo speaker both from California. Yesterday, the Global Oneness Project and Google Earth released a lesson plan and activities to help teachers explore Indigenous languages vitality with their students. For Indigenous speakers interested in submitting their language to the collection, the Google Earth team is taking submissions through the end of this year.

I feel proud to be a part of two corporations: my heritage as a tribal shareholder of Doyon, an Alaska Native regional corporation, and my role as a Googler, where our mission is to make the world’s information accessible to all, extending knowledge beyond regions and customs. I’m excited to be a part of a new generation of knowledge sharing in the interior of Alaska, one that ignites a passion for education and helps build the next great generation of Alaskan Natives who like their ancestors, use the resources available to them to make an impact in their communities.

Ana Baasee’ (thank you)!

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