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No-Cost GIS Resources Available to Tribes Through BIA
Geospatial software licenses and training can be a huge help to Tribes building their own broadband networks, and federally recognized Tribes can access a number of geospatial resources at no cost.
Since 2002, the Department of the Interior has held an agreement with Esri, a leading GIS software, to make licenses and training available to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the governments of federally recognized Tribes.
The licenses and training are administered under the BIA’s Branch of Geospatial Support (BOGS), which “support[s] Tribes’ land management projects such as irrigation, floodplain analysis, forestry harvesting, wildfire analysis, oil and gas management, and other economic analysis,” but the resources have broadband applications well.
BOGS offers free geospatial software, geospatial training, and geospatial technical assistance to more than 900 BIA employees and 4,000 Tribal personnel.
Geographic information system (GIS) resources allow Tribes to map their networks as they are built, greatly assisting with documentation. GIS can be used to document culturally or environmentally sensitive areas, which is especially relevant if Tribes are working with contractors unfamiliar with the area.
Tribes can also leverage GIS to collect their own location data, and submit this data to the FCC to improve the agency’s maps, which are notoriously inaccurate on Tribal lands. Additionally, Tribes with existing networks can use mapping resources to compile data to feed into submission reports to the FCC as the FCC’s new reporting requirements will require some form of GIS.
To be eligible for these benefits, the organization must submit an application to participate in the Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) program. The products offered through this program are provided at no cost to ELA participants.
Eligible Tribal entities can also register for ESRI-led training online at no cost. These trainings range in experience from introductory courses for those getting started in GIS to managing geospatial data in ArcGIS.
These mapping resources can allow Tribes to rely on their own spatial data to make informed decisions about how their land will be used, and can give them more control over how their data is collected, owned and used. For more on Indigenous data sovereignty, see the First Nations Principles of Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession by the First Nations Information Governance Centre.
The Tribal Resource Center has also compiled a directory of mapping and planning resources, which can be accessed here.