New infrastructure could bring e-commerce opportunities to tribal lands


Ted Simons: COMING UP ON ARIZONA HORIZON, USING HIGH-TECH TO HELP STRUGGLING TRIBAL ECONOMIES.

Ted Simons: RECENT GOVERNMENT NUMBERS SHOW THAT THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN AMERICAN INDIAN Communities IS DOUBLE THAT OF THE OVERALL POPULATION, BUT THE INTERNET IS INCREASINGLY SEEN AS A WAY TO HELP THESE STRUGGLING TRIBAL ECONOMIES. ASU'S INDIAN LEGAL PROGRAM IS HOSTING A CONFERENCE ON THE IMPORTANCE OF E-COMMERCE ON TRIBAL LANDS. JOINING US NOW IS FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE INTERIOR OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, CARL ARTMAN AND ROBERT MILLER OF ASU'S O'CONNOR COLLEGE OF LAW. Good to have you both here. Thank you for be here. The state of e-commerce on tribal lands, what did you see out there?

Carl Artman: It's very important it’s really the next phase for Indian tribes to begin their economic development. In the early day, there was a reliance on federal government or grants. Then gaming came along. Many tribes have expanded into natural resource departments. All of those either have Platos, competition from local markets or have declining curves in the geology. With e-commerce, it’s a new budding area that tribes can go especially with last night’s focus on infrastructure development in the state of the union address, this is an area where tribes can begin to focus.

Ted Simons: It probably really helps because you are talking remote lands, you’re talking areas where roads, trains don't necessarily make their way.

Robert Miller: Most tribes are located in rural areas. Here in the Phoenix area we have three tribes, three successful casinos but still very poor communities. Even where tribes have successful gaming, they need private sector development and more and more jobs and economic activity. You mentioned the one stat about Indian population and employment statistics but as a racial or ethnic group more Native Americans live under the poverty line in the United States than any other group and reservation families, more than 30 percent live below the poverty line.

Ted Simons: Are there success stories regarding e-commerce and the Indian tribes?

Robert Miller: A few tribe shave gotten involved heavily in the online lending that’s been very controversial and there have been lawsuits and states fighting back. The recent change in the chairman of the protection board under President Trump some tribes had thought would loosen up that areas of business?

Ted Simons: Did you have success stories out there? Are folks starting to do this?

Carl Artman: They are starting to look into it and you’re starting to see tribes get the infrastructure to have technology oriented businesses or jobs that they’re actually getting it out on the west coast. Some tribes are starting to engage in I.T. development. Some are beginning to look at data centers, others are looking at ways so that they can begin to be e-commerce, warehousing sights for a lot of the larger companies that are out there.

Ted Simons: I would imagine the legal challenges in all of this are myriad and extremely complicated. Mr. Lawyer over here, how many hurdles and hoops do you have to jump through for this kind of stuff?

Robert Miller: We were just talking about tribes getting involved with marijuana business and so now with the change in administration you went from a pretty favorable, to feds pulling back. We won’t enforce the federal law if the feds legalize it. You now have Attorney General Sessions taking a different view. Things can change, just as what I mentioned about online lending maybe things have opened up the opposite way on the online lending world. Whereas changing maybe stricter in the marijuana field.

Ted Simons: And even without change, jurisdictional complexities abound, I would imagine?

Carl Artman: Absolutely. Where does this transaction begin? Where does it terminate? What jurisdiction is it gonna be held in? These are all things that tribes have to focus on. Hopefully some of the things in the conference in the next day or two, will begin to focus on. This is the seventh year that a conference similar to this has been put on an academic development in Indian country and always in the core of these conferences are the jurisdictional issues associated with tribal development.

Ted Simons: As far as the conference itself what do you want to see? What do you wanna see in the outcome from this?

Carl Artman: We are going to look at what happened in the past, what's happening in the present such as the politics and landscaping and what will happen in the future. Where are we with wiring the Res.? Once wired, where will it go? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities? Challenges, hacking, maybe opportunities, crypt currency. What role do tribes play in that as tribes for 250 years have been trying to figure out? Where do we stand in the big mix? Now that we have ones and zeros, they’re trying to figure out the same thing now.

Ted Simons: And the changing political landscape. The goal posts are always moving, aren't they?

Carl Artman: Yes, I’ve mentioned a couple of those and that's the opening panel tomorrow, literally what is happening. You mentioned already that tribes are in such rural locations. Karl was referring to some don't even have high speed broadband quality internet because they are in rural areas. A lot of Native Americans suffer from the same issues that rural Americans do and I’ve long advocated for them to partner together rather than being in conflict with each other. Because not even having full speed modern internet, how can you even be in the e-commerce world? So like he said that’s sort of looking at the past but it’s still the problem right now. That's another panel about building the infrastructure in Indian country.

Ted Simons: And we’ve heard about crypto currency, we’ve mentioned lending online lending. Are there other business models that just suit themselves to be fit on tribal land?

Carl Artman: I think the whole aspect of warehousing like we mentioned earlier, Amazon is building a huge warehouses and many tribes are ideally located because of their access to railroads and airports. If they have the most technology infrastructure, they can also be call centers or help centers for larger companies, with the growth of Amazon, Apple, Google and others, you’re gonna see tribes playing a big role.

Ted Simons: Last question this all sounds great, but the tribes have to buy in. Are they buying in?

Robert Miller: I think so because they’re looking to create economies and jobs in Indian Country. My personal interest is the development of the private sector in Indian country. So I hope if you wire the Res, even individual Indians who are living on the Res, can get more involved in what is the modern and the future economy.

Ted Simons: It sounds optimistic. Are you optimistic about this?

Carl Artman: Very much so, always have been.

Ted Simons: Alright, good to have you both here. Thank you so much for joining us.

Robert Miller, professor at the Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law, says more Native Americans in the United States live under the poverty line than any other group. Because most tribes are located in rural areas, they have limited means on how to make money.

“Even where tribes that have successful gaming, they need private sector development and more jobs and economic activity,” Miller says.

In comes e-commerce. This will allow Native Americans to participate in national, even global, economy. Former Assistance Secretary for the Interior for Indian Affairs Carl Artman says there are signs of success from Native Americans along the west coast as many of them have started to engage in IT development. However, there is an obstacle when it comes to being located.

“Some tribes don’t even have broad band high-speed internet because they are in rural areas,” Miller says. “Not even having active full-speed internet, how can you even be in the e-commerce world?”

A solution to that would be laying ground to build infrastructure in the area. This will also prepare the tribes to host warehouses and call centers, says Artman.

Artman is optimistic for e-commerce to greatly benefit the tribes. Miller agrees that the tribes are buying into this idea.

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In this segment:

Carl Artman: Former Asst. Secretary, Interior for Indian Affairs
Robert Miller: Professor, Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law

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