Elizabeth Rule, Director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics & Policy, is one of eight fellows recognized by MIT Solve for building innovative projects that blend technology with traditional knowledge. She will receive $10,000 to further develop the Guide to Indigenous DC mobile app and expand the project to additional regions.
The Guide to Indigenous DC is a free iOS mobile application developed by Dr. Elizabeth Rule, Director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy, and is one of eight Native-led innovations recognized by this year’s MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellowship Challenge.
MIT Solve is an initiative by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to support the development of tech-based social impact solutions through open innovation challenges. Its Indigenous Communities Fellowship focuses on providing Native American innovators with the support and resources necessary to advance their work.
Initially launched in 2019, the Guide to Indigenous DC features maps and easily navigable tours that highlight sites of significance to Native peoples within the nation’s capital. Users can generate geolocated walking, driving, and metro directions to and from each site, and a virtual tour with 360-degree on-the-ground imaging is available. The app also features a library of location-based stories, photos, and external resources that reclaim Washington, DC as a place of tribal gathering, presence, and advocacy.
“Solve is proud to run the Indigenous Communities Fellowship for the third year,” said Solve’s Executive Director, Alex Amouyel. “These Native innovators are using emerging and traditional technologies to support and strengthen tribal communities on and off reservations across the country. Whether mapping Indigenous landmarks in the nation’s capital, or using biomass-heated greenhouses to decrease fire hazards and provide healthy foods in Alaska, this class of Fellows is building upon generations of Indigenous innovation in their communities. We look forward to supporting these leaders to scale their work and impact."
The Guide, covered by over 30 media outlets in 2019, contributes to tribal historic preservation efforts and serves as an interactive resource for educational institutions, tourists, and others interested in understanding the contributions and perspectives of Indigenous peoples in the United States.
“Seventy-eight percent of Americans report an interest in learning more about Native peoples, cultures, and issues. The Guide to Indigenous DC mobile application meets this need by deploying mapping technologies to shine a light on historical and contemporary Native American presence within Washington,” writes Dr. Rule.
With the support of the Indigenous Communities Fellowship, Dr. Rule plans to expand the app to include other cities, offer additional features and content, and create a much-anticipated Android version.
“Within the next five years, my goal is to expand the digital map offerings within the app through collaborative partnerships with tribal nations and Indigenous organizations,” writes Dr. Rule. “I also plan to develop specific teaching materials to accompany the application that can be implemented within K-12 schools broadly.”
Similar GIS-powered projects are also on the horizon, including the upcoming Guide to Tribal Colleges and Universities – a digital map of national scale created in partnership with the American Indian College Fund that charts the locations, histories, and educational offerings of Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in the United States.
Dr. Elizabeth Rule is the Director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy, Assistant Professor, and Faculty in Residence at the George Washington University. Her work has been published in American Quarterly and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and her research has been featured in The Atlantic and on NPR. She is an enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.