Sunday, February 27, 2005
Project proposal #1, Melanie
I propose a research project that examines use of the Internet as a social justice tool by Native Americans in the Cobell v. Norton case. This legal case was brought by Elouise Cobell, a Blackfoot tribe member, who sued in 1996 to have the Department of Interior account for billions of dollars in mismanaged Indian Trust fund accounts and to reform the Trust system. For over 100 years, Trust mismanagement was a sad legend within tribal communities, and even within US government. It was only the advent of the Internet and its use to research government records which finally allowed tribes to gather a critical mass of evidence against the DOI. Judges have repeatedly ordered the DOI to disconnect its computer systems from the Internet due to security issues involving the Trust. Therefore, one must ask: how has the Internet emerged as a tool to leverage social justice in this case? My thesis will argue that Indian tribes in pursuing the Cobell v. Norton case have used the internet for its ultimate social good. Also, I will argue, the competing views of the "right" to internet access by the tribes and the DOI illuminate the government's key role in addressing the problem of universal access.