Created and maintained by NativeWeb.
Reviewed June 20, 2003.
NativeWeb is an “international, nonprofit, educational organization.” It began in 1994 as a part of the NativeNet project and a year later became an independent organization. The result of an effort by a few scholars and activists, its goal is to use technology to bring information to indigenous peoples, to assist and increase communications between native and nonnative groups, and to help indigenous people use and benefit from the Internet. At present most of the content focuses on issues in the United States and Canada.
The site may be characterized in at least two ways. First, it represents an effort to create links between and among indigenous peoples throughout the world. Thus far it is not clear that the site operators have achieved this goal. It serves more as a community Web center, with news, notices of jobs, events, and local self-help resources, than as an international rallying service. It also serves as a gateway to related sites. For example, the history category includes Australia and New Zealand as one of the world areas. Within it one can access legal and historical materials offered by the National Library of Australia, items rarely available to American scholars, much less to students.
NativeWeb makes no scholarly claims for its contents. Because its primary goal is to foster increased communication among indigenous groups and to help improve their access to the latest in information technology, historical topics and issues receive only modest attention. The site resource center offers thirty- nine subjects, history among them. Within that category the operators have divided the world into fifteen areas from Africa to the United States. Of those subcategories seven remain totally blank, and only Canada and the United States have more than two items listed. The historical contents include snippets from individual primary documents, mini-biographies, tribal histories, and discussions of events from the Cherokee Trail of Tears to the 1969–1971 occupations of Alcatraz. Most of the items are secondary, and some are of uncertain quality.
The site itself is a model of clarity. Primarily text, each page is attractive and has a large, easy-to-read design. Connections to subtopics are made easily, and the overall format is attractive. While this has much potential, it seems clear that the producers are more at home with the demands of producing a well- thought-out design than with developing a clear focus for its contents. Although they claim to encompass indigenous groups throughout the world, nearly half of the regions they list remain blank.
It appears likely that at this point most of the historical data made available here will be of only modest utility for college and university instructors. Those hoping to use the site materials for their courses will need to supervise their students carefully. In checking a number of attached sites, it is clear that the designers' potpourri approach has limited value for either history teaching or historical research. Their vision for what this can accomplish is exciting, but at this point their hopes have far outreached their accomplishments.
Roger L. Nichols
University of Arizona