LifeSize Connects the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Principal Chief Michael Hicks of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians takes a break from a videoconference with his chief of police.
The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is the only Indian tribe in North Carolina federally recognized by the United States government. The tribe is situated in western North Carolina, with 15,000 enrolled members across 56,000 mountainous acres.

Under the leadership of Principal Chief Michell Hicks, EBCI runs its own government, including a legislative branch and supreme court, as well as 400 unique programs spanning educational and recreational services, housing, finance, healthcare, public safety and sanitation.

Travel to division headquarters buildings even half a mile apart can take considerable time. With only seven deputies under the chief to oversee all 400 programs, EBCI needed a technological solution for better communication among divisions.

We turned to HD video communications rather than audio or web conferencing as the best solution for our needs. Our evaluation process included meetings with several vendors, and we finally settled on LifeSize Room 220 for the chief’s conference room and LifeSize ClearSea for other tribal leaders.

In selecting a provider, we had to find a solution that could easily connect inside and outside of our network. Confidentiality and security are extremely important to us—to the point that we’ve nicknamed our network “Fort Knox.”

LifeSize was the only vendor that could even do a demo without us having to open our firewalls. The other vendors weren’t able to do so even after opening a couple of ports.

Scalability also was important in the decision-making process. We were impressed that LifeSize allowed us to start small with our purchase and buy more capability as needed.

We also knew that a mobile solution was important in having tribal leaders communicate effectively. I liked the fact that LifeSize ClearSea supports so many different mobile devices. When someone calls, all of your enabled devices ring at the same time. Whether the chief or one of his deputies is on a phone, tablet or laptop, we never miss a critical call.

Every building in the tribe has its own WiFi network. By adding LifeSize ClearSea to the mix, we can be sure that connectivity is never a problem. The chief and his colleagues can connect at a moment’s notice.

The tribe uses LifeSize Room 220 and LifeSize ClearSea video communications routinely—the attorney general uses her LifeSize ClearSea system almost every day. For example, EBCI was involved in a legal matter that required considerable communication with the state government. The tribe saved nearly $15,000 on that one case alone by using video conferencing instead of having to travel to and from Raleigh, N.C., and Washington.

In another example, a rockslide blocked the city’s main thoroughfare, also blocking the casino. The casino is the community’s lifeline, accounting for nearly 85 percent of the tribe’s income, which funds medical care, public safety and sanitation programs. The rockslide made it nearly impossible for the community to function.

For this reason, the chief and his leadership team needed federal aid from FEMA. They were able to speak to the national agency over HD video conferencing, and we received the support our community so desperately needed.

LifeSize is, and will continue to be, vital to the successful operation of our community. In the future, we’ll hope to provide a LifeSize ClearSea account to as many tribal employees as possible, to make collaboration even easier and more effective.

Jeremy Brown is audio and video administrator for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. He can be reached at jerebrow@nc-cherokee.com.

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