The Circle posts an article highlighting Turtle Island Communications Inc. and its founders, Madonna Peltier Yawakie and her husband Melvin (Mel) Yawakie. Madonna was on the Blandin Broadband Strategy Broadband for many years. She and Mel attended several Fall broadband conferences. I have always been impressed and amazed at their depth of knowledge in building broadband. I have worked most with Madonna, who seems to understand every financial opportunity and every policy implication for tribal communities. I have seen her lift the flag again and again to make sure that tribal areas are seen, mapped and subsequently wired.
I’m pleased to share an abridged version of the article, starting with the basics…
For Madonna Peltier Yawakie and her husband Melvin (Mel) Yawakie, it is practically a meaningless question. But it does strengthen public awareness of the important work their Turtle Island Communications Inc. company does in Indian Country.
She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota. He is Pueblo Zuni from the Southwest. Both grew up in families where calling a relative a few miles away could be an expensive long distance telephone call.
Their roles and start in broadband…
“You don’t just wake up one day and say, “Let’s start a business,” Madonna said. “We’ve seen the need for most of our lives.”
Both had extensive telecommunications backgrounds and were painfully aware of disparities between the communities their prior employers served with modern communications and what was available in their home communities. They both had proper educational backgrounds to step in and serve Native American tribes.
Madonna said she thought she would want to work on economic development for tribes when she went off to college. Following that objective, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning from North Dakota State University (NDSU).
She serves as president of the family-owned company which allows her to continue her original goal although from a highly skilled, technical perspective.
Mel is vice president of the company and heads engineering, planning, construction and project management. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from NDSU, and an Associate degree in Electronic Technology from what is now Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan.
In that role, he leads in planning, designing and implementing both wireline services and wireless telecommunication systems for the tribally owned broadband, high-speed communications systems.
The Yawakies started TICOM exactly 20 years ago. Their first big project was for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas.
This became a learning experience in itself, Madonna said.