Nez Perce tribe embraces technology in government

Lapwai, Idaho (AP) November 2010

The Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee has replaced the raising of hands to signal a vote with the use of electronic devices.

It’s part of a recent switch to technology by the tribe’s General Council to have recorded votes during meetings.

The tribe is also streaming nearly all tribal government meetings live via closed-circuit television to three tribal community centers on the Nez Perce Reservation.

“When we first did broadcasting, we just did NPTEC,” tribal Chairman McCoy Oatman told the Lewiston Tribune. “Now a lot of the subcommittees are broadcast as well.”

Executive committee member Larry Greene said the main benefit of the technology is it makes meetings more transparent for tribal members.

“You can read the minutes, you can read what’s happened, (but) minutes don’t have debate” Greene said. “In reality, this broadcasts debate.”

Melissa King, an information system employee, said the goal was to have a system that allows tribal members to log onto a website to view live meetings, plus access archive material. King said electronic votes are easily searchable later.

Oatman said feedback from tribal members has been good, though committee members are having to get used to making the transition from paper to technology.

“From years and years and years with paper to now go and do this,” Oatman said. “It’s a real giant step.”