OHSWEKEN, Six Nations of the Grand River - Wray Anderson tells a host of
stories from his years on the West Coast, like the time he shared a bed
with Jane Fonda and her husband; but his mission now is to bring Apple
computers to his community on the Six Nations Reserve and its border towns.
Working from a log cabin surrounded by open fields, Anderson is selling and
servicing the latest generation of computer technology to the Native and
non-Indian families of rural southern Ontario, and has been making a go of
it for the past 10 years.
A large sign noting its "No Tax" status calls his store iC SuperCOMPUTERS,
but its formal name is Ithseronni Computers, from the Mohawk word meaning
"to make something better." His business thrives mainly by word of mouth,
but the highly trained computer technician, who is also an actor and
accomplished musician, has quite a reputation to trade on.
Anderson's background is said to be unequaled in this region. "I got my IBM
certification at IBM headquarters in San Jose, California," he said. "I got
my Compaq certification at Compaq headquarters in Irvine, California. I got
my Apple certification at Apple headquarters at Cupertino, California."
In a decade and a half in the Los Angeles area, he witnessed and helped
develop major advances in computer applications, such as computer-based
multimedia television and desktop publishing. During this time Anderson
developed Apple Central Service for 10 of the world's largest selling
Computerland Stores, which became the first profit-making service center.
He was then recruited by UCLA to develop and administer the Macintosh
service business for 500 campus departments. At that time UCLA sold more
than a million dollars worth of Apple Computers per month - making it the
largest seller of Macintosh computers in the world.
He also met some of the leading figures of computer science and was amazed
to hear them credit Native ideas and mathematics as foundations for the
industry. Personally meeting Bill Gates and training Microsoft reps on
features of Excel for Windows 1.0 was one of Anderson's outstanding
Along the way, he worked on production for nationally televised live shows
including the ABC Music Awards, the GRAMMY Awards, the American Video
Awards and the Country Music Awards, helped provide security for President
Ronald Reagan at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and mingled with
high-profile celebrities like Jane Fonda.
The bedroom scene with Fonda and her then husband, former activist and
California State Senator Tom Hayden, came about, Anderson explained with a
laugh, when he was providing computer training for her son Troy. The
computer sat on a desk in Troy's bedroom, which had only one chair and his
bed. "He sat in the chair and I sat on the bed," said Anderson.
"Twenty minutes later, Jane Fonda came up and said, 'Do you mind if I sit
"I said, 'Not at all.'"
"A few minutes later Tom Hayden came up and said, 'you don't mind if I sit
in?' So there I was in bed with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden."
Anderson also recounted that the producers of an American Video Awards
broadcast noticed his congenial disposition and asked him to act as an
escort for a "difficult personality." The performer was Peter Gabriel.
Anderson tells that they were locked out of the studio while looking for
Gabriel's limousine and found themselves being chased by a crowd of
potentially dangerous fans. "All I knew was what I could remember from the
Beatle's movie 'A Hard Days Night' and the plight of Chief Joseph," said
Anderson, as he led Gabriel into a series of hiding places as the mob
When the limo luckily came by and rescued Gabriel, Anderson turned to face
the crowd, but it ran right by him without stopping. "At that moment," he
said, "I was really glad I wasn't a celebrity."
But one of his most significant encounters, he said, was with the computer
engineer Andy Carmen, who assisted in the development of the Motorola 6800
central processor, the heart of the Mac computer. "We were getting along
great," he said. "And then I found out he was Native and we got along even
Carmen told Anderson how his Native grandmother's oven was crucial to the
development of the Intel computer chip. "They would take this chip, a
silicon wafer, and etch in the circuits. Then they would heat it and shrink
it to one-fortieth of its original size.
"His grandmother had an old-style oven," he said, and it turned out to have
just the right arrangement of elements to produce the chip.
Carmen also told Anderson how Native thinking on mathematics laid the
foundations for computer science. "The Mayans invented zero," said
Anderson. "They had binary, astronomically large numbers, conventional
units of measure, positional mathematics, and multiple base systems. Remove
any one of these Native inventions and you no longer have anything digital
Indians even had wireless communications, he said, - "smoke signals. And
they used the binary system."
As an offshoot of this conversation, Anderson decided to come home and
share this unknown history with his own people. When he first arrived at
Six Nations, he met some resistance, he said. "Some people said we
shouldn't be involved with the white man's technology." But he retorted
that it was also based on Native technologies.
He also proved its worth in preserving tradition. One of his first projects
was to serve as media coordinator for the first English recitation of the
"Great Law" by Chief Jacob Thomas in 1992. The event drew an attendance of
2,000, from Supreme Court judges to school children, and received national
and local television and radio coverage. He introduced digital production
to First Nations Cable with its first originally produced TV shows.
A generation of Six Nations students has become computer literate through
Anderson's training. He developed the curricula for a number of courses at
the Six Nations Polytechnic College and has recently conducted summer
computer camps at his store.
But his main struggle has been to get his store up and running. With
persistence, however, he managed to establish the first official IBM,
Compaq and Apple retail and VAR (value-added reseller) authorized computer
store in First Nations territory. Now, as a longtime Apple enthusiast and
entrepreneur, he primarily deals in the new generation of iMacs, a sleek
high-powered product with the computer built into an elegant monitor the
width of a small city phone book.
In addition to advertising, he promotes his business mainly through
displays at local fairs, where he has become one of the main attractions.
As visitors dropped in with service questions to his high-tech sales room,
backed by a log wall, his associate Kaela Montague fretted about cleaning a
computer tower that had been on display next to a dusty harness track. As
he answered a reporter's questions, she also delivered a convincing sale
pitch for the new iMac G5 to a customer who came by looking for a simple
piece of software.
"This is a business that pays its way," Anderson said. But at the same time
he proudly quoted a local non-Indian newspaper that called him "a technical
resource for the community." And for those who find their way to his shop,
walking through the door of the reservation log cabin often results in
genuine surprise and amazement. Amid multiple Apple computer screens
displaying photos, movies and Steve Jobs' product presentations, and
sounding the pulse of Derek Miller or the Black Eyed Peas music videos,
Indian tradition and cutting-edge technology seem naturally compatible.
For more information about iC SuperCOMPUTERS, visit: www.icnme.com/.