NEWS 2018

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News 2018

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November 24, 2018

Mato Ohitika's collaboration with Claremont Graduate University (CGU) and the Road Safety Institute (RSI) is published in September 2018

The data sovereignty framework's origin began a few years ago when Mato Ohitika was asked to contribute to a project in tribal traffic safety in conjunction with CGU and the RSI during his graduate studies. In September 2018, this work was accepted and published. My deepest thanks for this opportunity. Not only did this provide me with a data sovereignty proof of concept, it also was the cornerstone of the completion of my doctoral dissertation. Pidamaya!

You can find the report here:

Using GIS to Improve Tribal Safety: Applications, Trends, and Implementation Dimension

September 17-20 2018

Mato Ohitika presents the Data Sovereignty Initiative and his preliminary data science work with the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) at their 20th Anniversary Conference, the American Indian Tourism Conference (AITC)

After months of consultation and hard work, it is my distinguished honor to present the work I have been doing on behalf of AIANTA in developing tourism asset analysis to further indigenous tourism in conjunction with the NATIVE Act, a congressional mandate to help Native communities showcase their local tourism assets to an ever increasing international audience of travelers interested in visiting, interacting, and contributing to our communities economic development footprint.

This historic event showcased AIANTA signing a Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Interior and the US Department of Commerce to advance Native American tourism beyond just economic outcomes and begin to showcase the unique cultural heritage of each individual tribe when visitors come and learn about our traditions, history, and culture.

My deepest thanks to AIANTA for this partnership in using data science to advance our communities' goals of parity in tourism, but also providing visitors a look into what makes our communities so special and unique.

This is how we get ready for AITC!
AIANTA President Sherry Rupert
The historic signing of the MOU

September 11-13 2018

Mato Ohitika is invited to take part in the Supporting Tribal Data Governance for Community Resilience: A Southwest Indigenous Climate Summit in Tucson, Arizona

I had the honor of meeting with a number academic scholars, tribal officials, professionals, and community members to discuss many issues in data governance, data sovereignty, climate and health resilience and how Southwestern tribes are beginning to address these topics moving forward.


The US Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network (USIDSN) was a crucial resource for me in my doctoral dissertation and I was able to meet with many people who continue to move data sovereignty from theory into practice.

One of the most profound things I discovered in this summit was that data sovereignty is not simply a policy overview; rather it is an ever growing discipline that encompasses tribal oral traditions that constitute data passed onto the next generation which opened up a whole new set of ideas beyond data science and machine learning I brought to the discussion.

Community input is crucial developing SMART solutions that are not only practical, but honor tribal cultural capital. This position is crucial in consultation with tribal communities to make decolonizing data and research an integral part of rebuilding Native nations in the context of high ethical examinations how we move forward.

I want to thank the entire workgroup for their candid and insightful contributions to the ongoing discussions of data sovereignty.

August 8-10 2018

Mato Ohitika is invited to deliver a keynote address to the National Native Health Research Training Conference (NNHRT) in Prior Lake, Minnesota

Mato Ohitika had the distinct honor of delivering a keynote address to the National Native Health Research Training Conference in Prior Lake, Minnesota at the Mystic Lake Casino. This opportunity provided Mato Ohitika to provide not only an overview of how the Data Sovereignty Initiative works in practice, but also a live demonstration of how real-time data analytics can be achieved using data science.

This live data science exercise was to demonstrate the power of real-time analytics using ArcGIS online, ArcGIS Pro, and Survey 123. During the keynote, I invited members of the conference to submit answers to a survey I designed via QR code/URL to examine preliminary concerns stakeholders may have  about critical health research questions facing Native communities today using their phones during the keynote.

The resulting dashboards of the results included word clouds, bar charts, and other results showed how powerful this platform could be relative to data-driven decisions actuated in real time.

The accompanying Key Indicators and Descriptors helped drive the discussion on new ways of organizing data to make informed decisions strategically using citizen science.

The full slide show from the conference can be seen here: Keynote Slides

I want to thank the whole staff at the NNHRT for making my experience a memorable one. Thank you.

June 14, 2018

Mato Ohitika Contributes to an Ongoing Project

Info-Tech’s upcoming blueprint

GIS Technology and Land Management for Tribes

The Native American Technology Research Center (NATRC) is a research division of the Info~Tech Research group. Mato Ohitika submitted a piece about data sovereignty in the published ESRI Press book Tribal GIS: Supporting Native American Decision Making (see News September 2017) and it was noticed by the NATRC. They   inquired if Mato Ohitika would be willing to give some insights into the future of GIS and data sovereignty for their upcoming research.

The meeting was very insightful and want to thank Mark for the great interaction; I am glad I could provide perspective to further American Indian GIS outcomes.

Mato Ohitika Travels to the

National Congress of American Indians

Mid-Year Conference

Kansas City, MO

June 3-6 2018

Fresh off my graduation victory, I traveled to Kansas City as a new member of the NCAI. The mid-year conference is designed to highlight the current research American Indian tribes, researchers, and scholars having in building and maintaining community. One topic of interest that is gaining traction is the idea of data sovereignty; a fundamental topic of my PhD dissertation.

The conference had a number of speakers discussing about how to use data as an act of sovereignty. I had many meaningful conversations with many individuals on how I could help using my data sovereignty framework I designed. As my designs gain traction, I will continue to educate our tribal communities the importance of data sovereignty as fundamental shift in leveraging data science in policy analysis and decision-making.

Please visit the NCAI website to learn more about the continuing efforts to develop sound policy to advocate for American Indian communities.

Mato Ohitika Successfully Completes PhD in

Computational Science and Statistics

On April 12, 2018, I successfully defended my PhD dissertation:




My educational studies have been a long journey of successes and failures that have shaped what I wanted to accomplish by developing a manuscript of this magnitude to serve as the cornerstone of my company Mato Ohitika Analytics.

I wrote this dissertation not to sit on a shelf to collect dust, rather to design SMART solutions for tribal communities using data science. This accomplishment could not have been possible without the forward thinking of my PhD committee who saw the vision I had in developing this data sovereignty concept from an idea to a proof of concept using machine learning.

My dissertation asserts the need "to provide an ethical, cultural, and community based consultancy that is designed by an American Indian, for nation building to assist tribal communities with economic development, strategic planning, and data driven decision-making".

On May 5, 2018, I graduated from South Dakota State University with my PhD in Computational Science and Statistics. My deepest thanks to all who made this possible. In the coming weeks I will showcase some topics of my dissertation and how this will be integrated into my company mission goals.

Best Regards,

Dr. Joseph Robertson

A picture of myself and my committee chair and advisor Dr. Gary Hatfield after the hooding ceremony.
A picture of myself and SDSU president Dr. Barry Dunn.

Mato Ohitika's Partnership with

South Dakota State University

Wokini Initiative

Through the course of my studies the last 4 years, we have been fortunate to have a Native American recently appointed as the President of the University. Even more incredible, Mato Ohitika (me) is the first Native American trained data scientist in the Computational Science and Statistics PhD program in the Mathematics and Statistics Department, I feel the impact of establishing such precedence as a testimony to where we are going and it is truly inspiring.

I recently did a photo shoot to showcase my doctoral dissertation in creating SMART solutions for Tribal Communities, with the support SDSU has provided me in my doctoral studies, I am grateful to work towards outcomes that create opportunities for our Native youth close to home and here at South Dakota State University through the Wokini Initiative.


Mato Ohitika's Data Science Award

On February 11-12 2018, South Dakota State University held its 2018 Data Science Symposium. This two day event showcased a number interesting perspectives as to the state of data science and was a great networking opportunity.

The first day contained workshops on Python and the Microsoft Azure platform. I was able to attend the Azure workshop, it was quite interesting and was interesting to see how R stacks on the platform.

The symposium also showcased a number of students posters of their research, and all posters were judged with prizes. I am excited to report, I won first place in the contest! It was such a great honor and another way to showcase The Data Sovereignty Initiative!

My thanks to the judges!

Mato Ohitika's Community Outreach February 2018

Mato Ohitika took a break from his studies to travel back to the Lake Traverse Reservation in February to attend Career Day at Tiospa Zina Tribal School and to continue for his 4th year as a judge for the Enemy Swim Day School Science Fair.

I have always felt a strong connection to my home, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation. Anytime I have been asked to come back and provide professional advice, stories about higher education, or simply because my community service is what it means to be Native, I never hesitate to go back, I am so grateful our school system has continually asked me to come back and speak to our Native youth, it is a privilege I won’t soon forget.

Thank you.

Mato Ohitika's Road to the Doctorate 2018


It has been a whirlwind of activity this holiday season and I have been busy teaching, writing and preparing for my final semester here at South Dakota State University. On January 11, 2018, I successfully passed my written and oral comprehensive exam in the Computational Science and Statistics Program in the Mathematics and Statistics department. This represents a high honor in accomplishing my status as a PhD candidate. My defense is planned for early April and I plan to graduate in May of 2018.

My deepest thanks to my family, friends, and committee members that have made this possible!