Rewatch: Indigenous Tech, Indigenous Knowledge

By Amelia Winger-Bearskin | May 5, 2020 | Fellowships & Awards

Amelia Winger-Bearskin is a 2019-20 Mozilla Fellow embedded at the Co-Creation Studio at MIT Open Documentary Lab.


Wampum.codes is my new podcast. The podcast is named for the Iroquois craft of wampum, in which stories, contracts, and other agreements are woven into beaded patterns. Wampum is an example of what I call “antecedent technologies” — tools developed by indigenous peoples that parallel aspects of modern tech.

Image By Mek Frinchaboy

I’m a member of the Seneca-Cayuga nation of Oklahoma, and I began Wampum.codes as a way of collecting the wisdom and perspective of other native technologists who incorporate traditional practices and ideas into their work. After recording several episodes, the guests planned to gather onstage at MIT’s Co-Creation Studio.

Well, you know what happened next. COVID hit, and plans had to change. The panel moved online, becoming a Zoom webinar instead. The conference will still take place at MIT at a date in the fall TBD. Our webinar was held on April 28 and attended by over 300 people.

Panelists included Asha Veeraswamy, Dawn Borchardt, DeLesslin Roo George-Warren, Erica Tremblay, Jade Begay, Joseph Clift, Martha Winger-Bearskin (my sister), Morningstar Angeline, and Eve-Lauryn LaFountain.

Image By Mek Frinchaboy

It’s too bad we couldn’t do the panel in person, but in some ways it underlines how important it is to be having these conversations today. How does technology help us stay connected to one another and to our communities? These are no longer abstract or academic questions. It’s real life now!

Among those in attendance was Wampum.codes illustrator Mek Frinchaboy, who created the cover art for wampum.codes podcast. She distilled her notes from the conversation into an info-graphic depicting the topics and themes of the podcast.

Speakers covered a range of topics, from the liberatory dynamics of the early internet to the simple pleasures of drive-in movies. The group discussed how to deal with anxiety and loneliness under social distancing.

One remark I found especially insightful was when Mek suggested that we re-examine our use of the term “social distancing” and replace it with “physical distancing.” After all, physical closeness and social connection do not necessarily go hand in hand.

A video of the panel is available to view for anyone looking for a high-level introduction to the themes discussed in the first season of Wampum.codes. For those who prefer listening, I also cut the audio of the panel into a special super-group episode of Wampum.codes.


The entire first season of the podcast can be found on Spotify and Apple, and is also available via RSS.

Image By Mek Frinchaboy