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Critical Indigenous Studies Initiative held discussion on Indigenous Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence

The Critical Indigenous Studies Initiative held a virtual discussion on Indigenous Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence at 4pm on Mar. 10. This discussion, lasting for two hours, was sponsored by the American Studies Department, the Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Davis AI Institute, the Oak Institute for Human Rights, the Art Department, the Environmental Studies Department, the Cinema Studies Department, the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Department, and the Science, Technology, and Society Program. Participants could join the discussion through Zoom link or through the viewing party in Olin.

Invited panelists were prominent scholars including Jason Edward Lewis, Noelani Arista, Archer Pechawis, and Suzanne Kite, and the discussion was moderated by Professor Willi Lempert of Bowdoin College and Colby student Kale Sapiel `23.

Archer Pechawis, visiting Assistant Professor of Art and American Studies, welcomed participants and introduced the panelists and their research topic.

Then, Stella Gonzalez `22 remarked on the purpose of this event and pointed out “the long -standing history of genocide in land dispossession” and “continuing manifestations of colonialism.”

“We honor those who resist settler colonialism across the lands past and present, [which also] include our guests this evening.” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also connected to the topic of digital media and the internet specifically:

“We must acknowledge that the way that the internet and digital scapes have contributed to other manifestations of colonialism, whether it is physical or ideological,[or] whether it is through the rise of surveillance culture, expanding military capabilities, making extractive industries more efficient, or expanding the controls.”

Gonzalez further explained, “even though virtual events such as this can be more accessible by a wider range of people, we must also acknowledge that technology can contribute to newer forms of imperialism.”

Panelists discussed their research using their co-authored piece “Making Kin with the Machines” as a jump-off point.

Suzanne Kite pointed out, “the article ‘Making Kin with the Machines’ responds to Joichi Ito’s ‘resisting reduction’ theory. It should be seen as an intervention that addresses the problem [of] artificial intelligence, but [it should not be used] against artificial intelligence.”

In addition, Noelani Arista emphasized that, though there exists an “assimilating tendency” regarding Indigenous knowledge, we should also notice the differences among different groups.
“The notion of diversity is represented by different foundations of [knowledge systems]. The term ‘archipelago of knowledge,’ indicating different schools of knowledge, well explains [this idea].” Arista elaborated.

Regarding the relationship between “cyber power,” such as artificial intelligence, and Indigenous people, Professor Willi Lempert stated, “we need to figure out the relationship to virtual spaces, because if we are not making space for ourselves, it will be filled up by other people.”

“Virtual space has always been a colonial space,” Arista added.

Using her own experience, she mentioned, “my native body and the bodies of my family have to compete with the authentic vision of what Hawaii is. For example, when we say ‘clouds,’ we are [imagining] different types of clouds rather than just one type].”

For participants interested in learning more about the topic, a bibliography created by Stella Gonzalez will be available soon.

~ Kristen Shen ’24

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