Indigenous Issues with new GTLD’s

I was asked to present to the ICANN 47th meeting Durban South Africa about Indigenous perceptions of the new GTLD program  .

The speech I gave is written below and on YouTube. Considering I only had 5-7 minutes and a few weeks to prepare, it was very light on details but does cover a number of issues that are not well known within the non Indigenous community. This is also my first selfie :-), so I am fumbling with words a bit in the video clip.Indigenous Issues with new GTLD’s

The issues are more related to the huge effort Eric Brunner-Williams has advocated for North American Indians and from our local Maori perspectives with some feedback from international Indigenous Peoples during the discussions of .indigi .

An academic approach to the issues can be read Uncharted Domains and the New Land Rush: Indigenous Rights to Top-Level Domain”; Miss Lucy Yan, accessed via .



I have been given 5-7 minutes to raise issues that could take hours to explain and many more hours to debate and discuss. So this is rushed and very high level while missing out many other issues.


It could be argued that ICANN have created a potential for a global digital divide with the new GTLD program and that it may offer a high risk of infringing on cultural and economic rights for Indigenous Peoples intellectual property by entrepreneurs and multi national corporates.


Currently the Guidebook allows anyone with enough money to purchase and protect their brand and identity including city and geographic names, but little consideration is given for Indigenous Peoples/Cultural Groups to have the same protection for their brand and identity.
I have been asked to address three questions.

1. What are the consumer and public interest concerns in relation to the new gTLD program?



It is common fact that domain names can command a high economic value and is often referred to as virtual real estate. The non-financial benefits of domain names are the facts that Indigenous and cultural groups can use domain names as a virtual identity to promote language, culture, identity, protect IP rights which in turn raise social and economic status in the physical communities.
It also a vehicle to bring the physical community to a virtual community and to create a virtual identity that reflects their physical identity and protection mechanisms to its people.

Indigenous TLD, GTLD, and CCTLD issues are nothing new and historically Indigenous Peoples of Northern America have made cases to the late Dr John Postel and ICANN for the creation of a sponsored indigenous GTLD . (.NAA) North American Aboriginal  . The new GTLD guidebook ignores all of these issues.

Here I must acknowledge Eric Bruner Williams of NARLO and the others who have already raised issues in the past within the various hierarchy of ICANN.

In 2009 global talks were happening about the creation of a new GTLD dot Indigi for all Indigenous Peoples to be able to ascertain self-sovereignty with their own identifiers on a cost basis. The key message I received from these talks was the there is a global Indigenous problem of being ignored in the Internet’s DNS and the social/economic effects this would have.

Generic Names

There is no protection preventing Cultural Groups/Indigenous Peoples collective names from being registered .indian, .pacific, .maori, .apache, .comanche some of which we have already seen being registered in the first round of new GTLD’s including .zulu, .wales
The issue here is who has a right to claim the identity of an Indigenous group for the purpose of a GTLD? There appears to be little protection.

If a commercial entity were to register an Indigenous Name as a GTLD, this would remove the very last option for Indigenous identity in the DNS. We have already seen how this can occur with .patagonia which was raised in the GAC. It is unlikely that an Indigenous name would ever be noticed.


Despite the fact that sovereign nations and many other Indigenous Peoples were the first inhabitants in their country of residence, many Indigenous Peoples were colonised. In relation to CCTLD’s this means Indigenous Peoples are bound by RFC 1591 which prevents Indigenous Peoples who live in a colonised homeland from being recognised.

The other issue, prior to countries being colonised, Indigenous Peoples had their own names for the countries and these names are likely to be in use with the Indigenous Peoples or as in NZ, our native name Aotearoa is internationally known and used in the dual as Aotearoa/New Zealand.

It is often argued that Indigenous Peoples can use space within their CCTLD. But this has only occurred with two Indigenous groups Native Sovereign Nations and Maori. For at least Maori, this was a time consuming and expensive process that only meets a minority of the identity issue. Despite Maori being an official language of the country and the fact the NZ government are bound by a treaty to ensure equal rights and protections are afforded to Maori. This excludes the Internet as the govt do not administer the .nz CCTLD.
The new GTLD process does not consider any of the previous issues for Indigenous Peoples.


2. Are the policies and mechanisms that have been developed to address these concerns adequate?

There doesn’t appear to be any consideration of Indigenous Rights within the disputes mechanisms of the GTLD process.


3. What more needs to be done to address these concerns effectively?

  • Indigenous/Cultural Group representation needs to be heard throughout all of ICANN structure.
  • An Indigenous Review team to be established to review the GTLD Guide Book to ensure global Indigenous Issues are considered in all aspects of the new GTLD process.
  • An Indigenous rights review of the Rights Protection mechanisms
  • A pool of Indigenous experts to consult/consider Indigenous rights.
  • Linguist issues of Indigenous languages to be considered.
  • ICANN cold adapt or adopt the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights and be a better global citizen.
  • Perhaps ALAC could create an Indigenous Issues Working Group.

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