Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush is back at AbTeC/IIF!

Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush. Ribbon Dress. Acrylic on panel. 2018.

Hello there!

I am back at AbTeC after completing my BFA in Indigenous Visual Culture at OCAD University. In December, my first solo exhibition TOO MUCH NOT ENOUGH opened and closed successfully, ending a chapter in my academic journey. I showed eight paintings and one sculpture that combined the artistic practices of the Onkwehonwe and French-Canadian sides of my family in different ways. In these works, I reject and question quantifications of worth applied to me by others, society, and myself—such as blood quantum—and in turn, disrupt expectations imposed on Indigenous women and makers. I will be showing select works from this exhibition at GRAD EX 104 from May 1st to 5th OCAD University. Hopefully, I can maintain a painting practice now that I am out of school!

Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush. Starbucks White Boys. 96 inches by 36 inches. Acrylic and fringe on canvas. 2018.

Otherwise, I’ve been keeping busy! I am currently part of the Encore! Sistema team at the Karonhianonhnha and Kateri schools in Kahnawake. We have a concert at Oscar Peterson Hall on March 31st if you want to check us out. The kids are working so hard! I am also working on a short graphic novel anthology for Feathers of Hope and the-now-decommissioned Ontario Children’s Advocate called Blueberries; Healing the Circle, which will be published online near the end of the month.

Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush. Garbage Bag Ribbon Dress. 36 inches by variable. Calico, garbage bag, ribbon. 2018.

At AbTeC, I am honored to be working on the Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Centre Creation Story project. I am painting backgrounds and assets that will showcase great animation work and tell the Kanien’kehá:ka creation story. This is my first time painting to accompany animation and it is a great learning experience for me. Having worked on the first draft of the animatic this past summer, it is great to see the awesome job Ray Caplin did adding his magic touch, fleshing out and tidying up my (very) rough work— making it more cinematic. The prolific Teiowí:sonte Deer created the concept art for the project; learning to emulate his aesthetic and artisanship has become a fun challenge for me. I find myself tuning into stylistic details that I would have never noticed before. On top of this, I get to do my work on my new Cintiq Pro 16 that I got over the holidays, it is super portable and it is really speeding up my working processes!

I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2019 brings. Keep making!

You can learn more about Kaia’tanó:ron’s work here!

Maize Longboat and the Contact project: Indigenous-led videogame development

Photo by Vjosana Shkurti


(2019-03-05): We have some exciting news to share! As of today, the Contact project has been given a new title: Terra Nova. The decision to give the game a more formal name came from the project team’s desire to better encapsulate the meaning of what this game is about. Although the main conflict of the game’s narrative is indeed first contact, Terra Nova is truly about its two main characters, the worlds that have shaped them, and the future worlds yet to come.

Terra Nova also has its own website! There you can sign-up to receive updates on future play tests and release dates. Visit www.terranovagame.com to learn more.

She:kon! Maize Longboat and creating contact:

My name is Maize Longboat and I’m a graduate research assistant with the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) and in my second-year of the Master’s in Media Studies program at Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies. Presently, I’m in the middle of working on the “creation” half of my research-creation thesis project that explores Indigenous videogame development. To do this, I’m making my very own game, from start to finish, to respond to the following research question:

“What makes Indigenous videogames and how will the game created as part of this project be informed by my own experience as an Indigenous person?”

I found a number of videogames made by or in consultation with Indigenous people that I will discuss in my research, all of which are unique in their own ways. It proved to be a challenge when my supervisor asked that I offer a hypothesis on what actually makes a videogame Indigenous. Indigenous identities are vastly diverse, so defining what is and what is not Indigenous is something that I alone cannot determine. However, I can offer what I feel are the most important qualities that an Indigenous videogame might carry with it. The following lines from my proposal clearly state where I stand:

“Whether an Indigenous videogame is made by an individual or team of Indigenous developers, or by non-Indigenous developers working in consultation with an Indigenous community, it is determined by Indigenous peoples. The development process, from beginning to end, must be Indigenous-led.”

This is exactly what I set out to do in creating my own game. The only challenge was that I had never actually made a videogame before. Instead of beginning with a game mechanic like running, or jumping, or shooting projectiles, I started with a central scenario that I frequently come across while studying Indigenous histories. I wanted to make a game out of a moment of first contact between an Indigenous and Settler peoples. These moments of encounter and communication are always the spark of larger events; only recalled to frame larger, more important narratives that come after. This game focuses on the lead-up and moment of first contact between Indigenous characters and Settler characters and how they react to one another’s presences.

Thanks to the generosity of the Hexagram Network and Social Science and Humanities Research Council, I have the funds to hire a small team to help fill in for my technical shortcomings. I brought in a Lead Developer, Mehrdad Dedashti (mdehdashti.com), to handle programming and integration tasks, an artist, Ray Caplin (portfolioofraycaplin.tumblr.com), to create visual assets and animations, and a sound designer, Beatrix Moesrch (framingnoise.com), to bring the game-world to life. It was really important for me to get people who not only had strong technical skills, but who also cared about working on an Indigenous-led project. I had to go through a few interviews before I could settle on a team that I could trust to support my research in that very specific way.

As I assembled the team, I was also designing a narrative that would speak to my central game scenario of first contact. The story takes place on Earth far in the future, long after an environmental catastrophe forced a number of humans to abandon the planet in an attempt to settle somewhere better out in space. The humans that were forced to stay on Earth adapted to their new environment and eventually forgot about the ones that had left them behind. Earth is still healing and high-water levels from melted polar ice caps cause erratic weather patterns. Earthborn humans live high atop the overgrown, ruined city-structures built ages ago to escape these unpredictable tides.

View of overgrown structures from high-ground.

After several millennia of attempting to locate a habitable planet, Starborn humans have now unknowingly returned to their ancestral homeland to finally settle.

View of the Starborn spaceship from an overgrown structure.

This moment of first contact between Earthborn and Starborn humans is experienced through the eyes of Terra, an elder Earthborn landkeeper, and Nova, a Starborn youth.

Early concept art for Nova (top) and Terra (bottom) with size and height ratios.
Final player character sprites for Terra (left) and Nova (right).

The game will offer a two-player, cooperative experience where each player plays as either Terra or Nova simultaneously. Both players can interact with each other, non-player characters, and objects in the environment to progress through the narrative. At first, each player starts in their own specific zones before the Starborn spaceship crash lands on Earth. The crash separates Nova from his community, while Terra witnesses the crash and sets out to investigate. The two eventually come across one another, sharing that moment of first contact between Indigenous and Settler peoples, and must then cooperate to help Nova find his people and ensure that Terra can find out what the Starborn people want.

I’ll be working with my team for the next several weeks to finish the game so that we can move into the playtesting phase. (Stay tuned in to AbTeC social media feeds for the exact date and time!) After the playtests I will be taking the reflections provided by players and making final changes right before I dive headfirst into the writing process.

Wish us luck!

A year in review with Suzanne Kite

Since beginning my PhD and starting as an IIF Research Assistant I have been super busy. 2018 was full of so many collaborations, performances and travels.

My 2018 began with a panel at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I participated in a lot of inspiring panels such as Traveling Against the Current at Concordia University, Artificial Imagination symposium with Artengine in Ottawa, the Material Turn Symposium at Concordia, MUTEK Montréal’s Keychange Panel , Punctures Convening performance and panel at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center in Buffalo, Performance and Panel with Raven and Laura at Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art in Winnipeg, and the Immersed panel in Montreal.

At the beginning of the year, I began a new artwork called Listener, which developed from my research and conversations at AbTeC. Listener was premiered at SAW Video Knot project space / espace projet Nœud in Ottawa, Ontario, and performed at Concordia as an Indigenous Futures Cluster Presents event. I am most proud of having performed and installed Listener at Racing Magpie in Rapid City, South Dakota to an audience of Lakota friends and family. Later in the year, I performed Listener at Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria and at 24 Hour Drone Hudson Basilica in New York. Since then a video version of Listener was screened at Echo Park Film Center in LA as a part of Art at Tongva. Listener was also installed as a video in the “Live Long and Prosper” exhibition at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

I made a second new work called Better Off Alone, an installation and internet chat room, where the typing of the audience is sonified into drum n bass. This piece was installed at InterAccess in Toronto, curated by former AbTeC RA Lindsay Nixon. I closed out the installation with a performance of a work addressing imagined and real space through jungle sample sounds in a piece titled, junglejungle at InterAccess.

I collaborated extensively last year with Nathan Young, who came to Montreal as an artist-in-residence at the Indigenous Futures Cluster, resulting in a completely new project called something is coming. In the fall, Nathan and I participated in a residency at the M:ST Performative Art Festival in Calgary, where we created and performed 12 new sound works for the project, all focusing on sonifying the electricity grid.

I also collaborated with my friends Adam and Zack Khalil and Jackson Polys as a part of the New Red Order. We participated as The Informants at Images Festival in Toronto and Human Resources Los Angeles. I wrote a new piece, for their project, The New Red Order Presents: The Savage Philosophy of Endless Acknowledgement, at Whitney Museum of American Art. My piece, Brighter than the Brightest Star You’ve Ever Seen, is a lecture on Lakota phrases, aliens, and murder.

Finally, my research into American mythologies of Indians and aliens was published by Un Projects, titled “Who Believes in Indians”. The research into Lakota ontology and Lakota concepts of nonhuman animacy, which I first lectured about at the Zooetics Symposium talk and panel at MIT, was then published in collaboration with Jason Lewis, Noelani Arista, and Archer Pechawis as “Making Kin with the Machines” published in MIT Journal of Design and Science. In a similar vein, I am now the Coordinator for the upcoming Indigenous Protocol and Artificial Intelligence workshops!

2018 was a super productive year, and I am glad for my role as an RA for the Initiative for Indigenous Futures.

Leveling Up! with Waylon Wilson

Waylon Wilson, Tuscarora Nation

MDes Student, Master of Design Program

Department of Design and Computation Arts

Waylon Wilson at Concordia University, 2018

It was in the last few years of my Bachelor of Arts at the University at Buffalo (UB) that I really began exploring interactive forms of media. I discovered the digital world of 3D environments, video games, mobile applications, 3D printing, and even dabbled in wearable electronics. I come from a vast digital media background, but before UB I mainly focused on digital video and audio production. Now that I’m entering my second semester as a Master of Design student here at Concordia University, I’ve really begun to  focus on experimental game development and to explore the outcomes of designing for this technology as Indigenous people.

Gameplay Screenshot of Cawak, 2016

My work aims to embed critical Indigenous thought into interactive media by exploring various realms of technology and what these tools have to offer us as Indigenous media makers and consumers. The digital flood of technology immerses us daily in wave after wave of new gadgets and applications and it is up to us whether we want to embrace this technology or not. Indigenous people often have stigmas associated with using digital technology, especially when it comes to our more traditional knowledge and practices. I’m exploring how these technologies can enhance our ways of thinking as Indigenous people. My goal is to find useful ways to integrate this technology into our lives to as an ongoing practice of our traditional knowledge rather than have it act as an intrusion or hindrance to these ways of knowing.

Character Design for Ekwehewe The Real People, 2017
Gameplay Screenshot of Ekwehewe The Real People, 2017

In order to better understand where Indigenous-determined uses of technology can take us, I look to the ways Indigenous peoples have always engaged with media and technology. As a citizen of the Tuscarora Nation, I draw on the visual and interactive designs in our Haudenosaunee beadwork, wampum, carvings, and other objects used to embed our stories and teachings. The media we use to document our teachings are never only media objects, but are used on a daily basis and meant to be interacted with. Some of these designs are kept with us on a daily basis such as the beadwork we wear or etchings carved into pottery. Other media forms such as wampum belts include more complicated interactive designs and can be interacted with in different ways; they can be read from the front, the back, upside down, and even looped around to connect back to itself in an infinite cycle.

Gameplay Screenshot of Nuya! NuYa! A Tuscarora Exploratory Game, 2018

Our grandmothers and grandfathers were intuitive visual and interactive designers. I often find myself referencing their complex work and the ongoing critical thinking and practices of our Indigenous peoples to ground myself and inspire my thinking as well. Working as a Research Assistant for the Initiative for Indigenous Futures has been a big help in directing my recent work. I hope that all of us as Indigenous media makers across Turtle Island can begin to level up this digital era we live in together.

Find more information on Waylon and his practice at www.waylonwilson.com

Waylon Wilson at Meaningful Play Conference, Michigan State University, 2018

Introducing Léuli Māzyār Lunaʻi Eshrāghi, AbTeC/IIF’s new Postdoctoral Fellow!

Tālofa lava ʻia ʻoutou, Bonjour à tous, Hello everyone.

Je suis passionné des langues, de la bonne nourriture, de l’océan, de la science-fiction et du futurisme autochtone. Je suis artiste, commissaire et chercheur australien issu d’origines samoanes, persanes et chinoises entre autres. J’ai terminé mon doctorat en histoires intellectuelles et esthétiques (pratiques de commissariat d’exposition) du Grand Océan en août. Je suis ravi de pouvoir travailler à l’élaboration d’une collection d’œuvres vidéo par artistes autochtones traitant ou s’imaginant les avenirs, des Amériques et du Grand Océan. Je crée des performances, installations, écrits et projets d’exposition centrés sur les savoirs incorporés, les structures cérémonielles-politiques, le renouveau des langues et les avenirs porteurs d’espoir. J’expose et publie régulièrement et sers de liaison entre nos zones au sein du comité d’administration du Collectif des commissaires autochtones du Canada. Je suis diplômé en commissariat d’exposition, histoire de l’art, cinéma et littérature comparé francophone et gestion culturelle autochtone. À bientôt au labo ou ailleurs !

I’m passionate about languages, good food, the ocean, science fiction and Indigenous futurisms. I’m an Australian artist, curator and researcher from Sāmoan, Persian, Chinese and other ancestries. I completed by PhD in intellectual and aesthetic histories (curatorial practice) of the Great Ocean in August. I’m thrilled to be able to work on creating a collection of video works by Indigenous artists set in or imagining futures, from the Americas and the Great Ocean. I make performances, installations, writing and curatorial projects centred on embodied knowledges, ceremonial-political structures, language renewal and futures that bring hope. I exhibit and publish widely and serve as a link between our regions on the board of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective of Canada. I hold qualifications in curatorial practice, art history, comparative Francophone cinema and literature, and Indigenous arts management. See you soon in the lab or around!

(You can find more information about Léuli here)

Léuli Eshrāghi, vaimea_tuna, for Lukautim Solwara (look out for the ocean) project. Photo: Steven Rhall.


Léuli Eshrāghi, paper_s_kin gesture (2018), un Magazine 12.1 launch, Footscray Community Arts Centre, May 2018. Photo: Daniel Gardeazabal.



Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace wishes you a magical holiday season ✿❤❄✳

What a year!

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace sends you our warmest wishes this holiday season. Both in the studio and out in the world, 2018 was a phenomenal year for us! We wanted to take a moment to share some of our accomplishments and activities with you.

The new year began with AbTeC co-founder Jason Edward Lewis offering a brand new course, a graduate seminar on the Future Imaginary, in which students thought about what Indigenous life would look like in the future and the implications of this question. Students produced research papers and creative projects to articulate their own future imaginaries. Undergraduate research assistant Dion Smith-Dokkie’s contribution to our Illustrating the Future Imaginary series, Figure 4. Exclusion Zone Radioactivity, developed from this course.

In February, graduate RA Maize Longboat and co-founder Skawennati gave two workshops at the Good Hearts, Good Minds conference in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, showing over 30 Indigenous youth how to tell traditional stories in digital media and introducing them to the basics of Second Life. Skarù:re’ Awekwehstá:θe:’ founder Mia McKie and graduate research assistant Waylon Wilson joined in to help. Back in the studio, we were paid a visit by students from OCADU’s Indigenous Visual Cultureprogram, who came to learn about our research and ongoing projects. Through this, we reconnected with Illustrating the Future Imaginary contributor Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush. Kaia’tanó:ron joined us as an RA over the summer, offering her expertise in digital painting and design.

AbTeC and IIF hosted a number of other workshops this year too! In April, Maize and Skawennati, this time with Producer Nancy Townsend, went to Saskatchewan to give a machinima workshop at the Regina Public Library in partnership with the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Over the course of the week, participants created a short machinima based on a Nehiyȃw (Cree) story: How the Loon Got Its Walk. Find Maize’s account of the workshop here.

From March to May, AbTeC and IIF collaborated with the Kahnawake Survival School to offer an in-depth version of our 7th Generation Character Design Workshop. In this five-week workshop, our team worked with high school students to help them imagine a descendant or community member at least seven generations in the future. Working with paper and pen, participants sketched their designs under the guidance of Jason Edward Lewis and Skawennati. Following this, undergraduate RAs Raymond Tqoqweg Caplin and Kahentawaks Tiewishaw gave lessons in 3D modelling, UV unwrapping and skin creation. Participants then created their own characters. Our lessons were punctuated by a visit from industry professionals Dominick Meissner and Vivian Herzog of Behaviour Interactive. We concluded the workshop with an in-community exhibition of 3D printed versions of the participants’ digital models! In one of our prototype Seventh Generation Character Design Workshops, graduate RA Suzanne Kite (aka Kite) developed the concept for her performance artwork Listener. An image from this piece, entitled L-Sys (Lakȟóta System), was added to the Illustrating the Future Imaginary series.

In July, IIF collaborated with Kanaeokana and Kamehameha Schools to facilitate He Au Hou 2, the sixth version of our Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design. Taking place in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, our team of seasoned pros and bright newbies worked with a marvellous cohort—who named themselves Ka Lei Milikaʻa—to transmediate Kanaka Maoli stories and knowledge into a video game format. A number of research assistants acted as facilitators and instructors—you can check out the test game they created in preparation for the workshop here. After three weeks of intense learning (and laughter), the cohort created Wao Kanaka, I ka Wā Mamua, i ka Wā Mahope. You can download the game for free at the Skins 6.0 website, as well as our curriculumblogdocumentation and participant bios.

Both AbTeC and undergraduate RA Lucas LaRochelle an Honourable Mention in the Digital Communities category of the Ars Electronica Festival! Additionally, Kite took part in the Hexagram Network’s Campus Ars Electronica group exhibition, Taking Care, with three performances of her iterative, multimedia performance artwork, Listener. Research assistant Sam Bourgault collaborated on Design and Computation Arts Masters student Augustina Isidori’s SOLA as the Unity Developer.

 In 2017, the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology introduced its Undergraduate Fellowship Program. Through this program, Milieux’s eight clusters nominate students to conduct personal research and contribute to its community. RA Dion Smith-Dokkie was our Fellow in the 2017-18 year. Currently, undergraduate research assistants Kahentawaks Tiewishaw and Rudi Aker are our Milieux Undergraduate Fellows.

The studio was abuzz with anticipation for the 19th edition of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Ontario! AbTeC and our affiliates submitted four works. For our part, AbTeC and the Skins 5.0 cohort, Nā ‘Anae Mahiki, submitted He Ao Hou, the video game made during the Skins 5.0 Workshop, our first in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Skawennati submitted her sci-fi machinima retelling of the Haudenosaunee confederation story, The Peacemaker Returns. Our research assistants were in on the action too! RA Waylon Wilson, along with his collaborator Mia McKie, exhibited their game, Nu:ya! Nu:ya! A Tuscarora Exploratory Game. And, RA Travis Mercredi’s virtual-reality walking sim, ~2700, was also featured in this year’s festival!

In November, a bunch of us attended the Indigenous Comic Con—we had a blast! Jason Edward Lewis, Nancy Townsend, Suzanne Kite, Maize Longboat, Ray Tqoqweg Caplin, Valerie Bourdon and Kahentawaks Tiewishaw all flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the three-day event. We connected with fellow Indigi-nerds and met cool artists! We even took part in the Cosplay Contest. An AbTeC team put together a beautiful costume which Kahentawaks wore, playing Otsitsakaion from Skawennati’s She Falls For Ages!

All year long, at our virtual headquarters, AbTeC Island, we have been researching what it means to create Indigenously determined cyberspaces—and what it means to be Indigenous online. A number of guests have come to our weekly visiting hours to explore and talk about Indigeneity, virtual worlds and the future. In October, we hosted a Halloween party, and just last week, a Winter Solstice Wonderland party to bring virtual and real-world guests into our little slice of virtual paradise. The project has appeared on platforms like Canadaland’s The IMPOSTER and CBC Unreserved with Rosanna Deerchild.

The studio has been bustling with residents and special guests over the past 12 months! Artist-in-residence Scott Benesiinaabandan has been working on a variety of projects over the year; his virtual-reality artwork, Blueberry Pie Under a Martian Sky, toured Canada with the 2167 project. We have also welcomed a host of guests for briefer stays. Lenape-Kiowa artist and IIF artist-in-residence Nathan Young collaborated with Suzanne Kite on a site-specific digital listening artwork. He also gave an artist’s talk, and was interviewed for our Future Imaginary Dialogues series. Filmmaker Adam Khalil and MIT Arts, Culture and Technology Masters student Erin Genia also visited us in studio! During the summer, Achimostawinan Games joined us to create a prototype version of their forthcoming, Indigenous Cybernoir video game, PURITY & decay. Meagan Byrne, Tara Miller, Travis Mercredi, Colin Lloyd and Gabriela Kim Passos were in the studio in various capacities in May and June, pushing the project forward with the support of our team. Finally, Anishinaabe comedian, writer, media maker and community activator Ryan McMahon gave an Indigenous Futures Cluster Presents public talk where he shared experiences gained through his podcast, Red Man Laughing.

This is just a sampling of our projects throughout 2018. If you would like to see a full overview of our activities in 2018 and years previous, click here to access our IIF Partnership Activity Interactive Timeline.

As you can see, 2018 was a magical and hectic year! Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace looks forward to some regenerative rest and to a fruitful 2019. We thank you for your continuing support and interest in our mission and wish you the happiest of holiday seasons and a wonderful New Year!

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw, Milieux Undergraduate Fellow!

My name is Kahentawaks Tiewishaw-Poirier and I am grateful to have been awarded one of the 2018-19 Milieux Undergraduate Fellowships. I come from the Kanehsatake Mohawk Territory, and I am a third year Computation Arts student at Concordia University. My research interests lie in exploring how Indigenous communities can use technology in an artistic way to pass on their respective cultures. I am primarily interested in the transmediation of traditional stories and legends.

As the use of mobile screens becomes an increasingly integral part of our lives, the way our children learn and play is changing. In order for our culture to be passed on successfully to future generations, we must invent new and interesting ways to engage with it. In a world where all media is grappling for a few seconds of our attention, we must remain relevant.

My expectation for this experience is that I will learn quite a bit about asset creation for mobile applications. Although the project that I have in mind is still a bit unrefined, I know for sure that it involves making an app that engages with my culture’s traditional stories.

My primary artistic practice is 3D modeling and I have both academic and professional experience in the field. My first professional experience came from teaching in the Seventh Generation Character Design Workshop that was offered by the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) at the Kahnawake Survival School in the spring of 2018. In this workshop, participants imagined a character that is from a world seven generations in the future. The character was drawn, 3D modeled, textured, posed, and eventually…3D printed!

The second instance of my professional experience was in preparation for my role as 3D Lead for IIF’s Skins 6.0 Workshop on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design, which took place in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, this past summer. My fellow technical instructors and I were mandated to create a mini game of our own design as a test run … If we were going to teach other people how to make a video game, we had to be sure we could make one ourselves! Consequently, my last big project was my instructor role in this workshop. I taught participants all about 3D asset creation for video games.

I look forward to the things I will learn while utilizing this Fellowship!


Rudi Aker, Milieux Undergraduate Fellow!

ntoliwis rudi, wolastoqew-nil, sitansisk-nil.

my name is rudi, i am wolastoqew, and i come from sitansisk, so-called fredericton, new brunswick. Among many other identities i hold: i am a nitap, a multidisciplinary artist, a cultural worker, and a student. i am in the last years of my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Concordia and within this institution i co-organize the Indigenous Art Research Group and i am a research assistant at Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and Obx Labs.

It is important to acknowledge that i am a visitor here in tiohta:ke, meqewihkuk. I have and continue to benefit from being on this territory as wolastoqiyik. I persistently and actively think about the processes that allow me to be here, away from my territory and kin. I take time to consider what this means in the greater spectrum of placehood, visibility, and traversal of (un)colonized space—which underlies the subject of my research.

how it’s supposed to be. Acrylic on canvas. Rudi Aker. 2018.

My Fellowship will work through some big ideas on contact, place, and memory. I’m looking at works like The Book of Touch (Constance Classen) and Maps and Memes (Gwilym Eades), using these works to (re)frame concepts of contemporary Indigenous placehood. I am interested in the practice of navigating and experiencing space through intimate intergenerational information. How has this information been disseminated in our communities? What does this information look like, sound like, and feel like? I will thoroughly investigate memetics (akin to genetics), and ground myself in the study of how information travels through peoples, unknowingly and otherwise.

I am deeply inspired by scholars like Dr. Julie Nagam and her writing on concealed geographies, as well as Mishuana Goeman’s work on mapping. These scholars have lead me to reflect on Native Space, embodied practices of space-making, and the systematic disenfranchisement of Indigenous people through violent, colonial spatial practices.

By synthesizing this work, I suggest that counter-cartography is a decolonial and sovereign act that moves through generations by way of memes (cultural information that translates to/from minds and bodies). Ultimately, I will formulate how this informs a nuanced understanding of an inherently Indigenized sense of place.

nil yut. Glass beads on felt. Rudi Aker. 2018.

In addition to my synthesis paper, I will work on a creation project that brings together how I use representations of cartography as a process of undertaking my own emotive literacy and self-awareness. Throughout my practice, I use abstracted, map-like imagery to explore planes of surface. I have long been rooted in painting and beading though in the past few years, I have been engaging in a more materially-based practice. This has been a move to diversify my own practice to reflect the skills that I have gained and been privileged to be gifted with. This is also a pointed choice to dehierarchize the perception of art vs. craft and again, what it means for me to have access to various institutions that (de)limit my own making. The result of this aspect of the Fellowship will be cross-medium tactile explorations of space.

I am looking forward to working on a project so close to my interests and heart. I am so incredibly grateful for the support that I have been given in all of my life’s disciplines.

woliwon! psiw ntulnapemok! 🍓

Reframing Practices: Why Naming Matters

In mid-November, the Quebec Library Association (ABQLA) hosted a discussion on cataloging, classification and Indigenous Knowledges at Concordia’s Webster Library entitled “Reframing Practice: Why Naming Matters. As AbTeC begins to set up the database for the Aboriginal New Media Archive (discussed in an earlier post), issues regarding the classification and cataloging of Indigenous materials are pertinent to our project. This post summarizes the event in connection with AbTeC’s archives.

Recently, institutions and Indigenous communities have been developing protocols and strategies for institutions holding Indigenous materials. This, in part, is the result of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s call to action in 2015 which called upon “the federal government to undertake a “national review of archival policies and best practices” in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples.[1] The Committee on Indigenous Matters at Canada Federation of Library Association recommended library systems address “structural biases […] arising from colonialism […] [by] committing to integrating Indigenous epistemologies into cataloguing praxis and knowledge management.”[2] This recommendation was coupled with calls to “recognize and support indigenous cultures and knowledges,” “enhance opportunities for Indigenous library, archival and information professions” and implement “Indigenous Knowledge Protection protocols and agreements […] to respect the Indigenous cultural concept of copyright.”[3]

It is clear that Western systems of knowledge management do not adequately describe Indigenous archival materials. This inadequacy, as Hannah Buckland described in her presentation, is expressed in the Library of Congress’ subject headings. For example, the Library of Congress uses the subject “American Indian — folklore” to categorize Indigenous Peoples’ cultural knowledges and storytelling. The subject heading, as Buckland notes, reinforces the colonial mystification and mythologization of Indigenous peoples and their cultures. Descriptive metadata of this kind is not only inadequate, it is a form of colonial inscription that serves to legitimize and reinforce existing biases that, historically, repeat the troubling roots of archives as part of the dispossession of Indigenous’ cultures, land, and languages. Libraries and archives have a responsibility to address how their institutions are implicated in colonial histories and knowledges and pave a new path forward in which the support of Indigenous knowledges and cultures is prioritized.

Descriptive metadata, subject headings and the ways in which cultural knowledge is accessed and deployed need to be determined by and in consultation with the communities whose cultures and materials are being represented. Buckland, currently the Service Manager at Hennepin County Library and the former Director of Library Services at Leech Lake Tribal College in Minnesota, Buckland spoke about the need for librarians and archivists to use metadata as a form of microaggression to work against existing biases and power structures within library classification.

Indigenous librarians and archivists have implemented new cataloging and classification systems that reflect their cultures and communities. Presenters Camille Callison (Learning and Organizational Development Librarian at the University of Manitoba) and Annie Bosum (Library Technician at ᐋ ᑎᐹᑐᑖᒡ ᐋᓂᔅᒑᐅᑲᒥᒄ, Aanischaaukamikw, Cree Cultural Institute [http://creeculturalinstitute.ca] in Oujé-Bougoumou) shared their respective adaptations of the Brian Deer Classification System (BDCS) to develop a more accommodating system for nations across the continent and, in Bosum’s case, at a local level. The Cree Cultural Institute updated the BC-focused BDCS to include more Cree dialects. They also removed the provincial parent heading as a category for organizing dialects because dialects do not neatly correspond to regions.

Callison, on the other hand, is doing this work through her participation in the Canadian Federation of Libraries Association’s Indigenous Matters Committee, a committee formed to advance and implement meaningful reconciliation as addressed in the Truth and Reconciliation Final Report and in the Calls to Action. The committee developed the Indigenous Materials Classifications Scheme (IMCS), a system based on the BDCS that will eventually be free and online for libraries and archives to adopt!

The IMCS was employed by the National Film Board in their Indigenous Cinema online collection, a project developed in consultation with Callison. Katherine Kasirer, Librarian at the NFB, discussed the project’s development and the NFB’s history of Indigenous filmmaking and films with Indigenous content. Through the project, the collection’s one access point for Indigenous content expanded to include 18 Indigenous subject headings and a searchable index of nations organized from East to West rather than in alphabetical order. This organization is part of the IMCS, and one of the ways Indigenous epistemologies in archives are enriching researchers’ interpretations and experience of data. In this case, spatial knowledge is built into the system and offers another layer of information and exploration not provided by alphabetical ordering.

Dr. Kenneth Deer from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake opened the morning’s discussions with Ohén:ton Kariwatéhkwen or Thanksgiving Address, the Haudenosaunee ceremony to bring our minds together as one and give thanks to the natural world. This process of beginning with words to guide intentional actions is a fitting way to begin discussions on how description and organization in cataloguing and classification practices give way to anti-colonial actions in which Indigenous cultures and knowledges are supported, not just in archives and libraries, but in the research projects they inspire, educational programming and their local communities.

The discussions that took place at “Reframing Practice: Why Naming Matters” will help guide our consideration of naming conventions and knowledge organization in AbTeC’s archives, and the eventual Aboriginal New Media Archive. As we head into a new year, 2019 will bring more archive team members and consultants to develop protocols for the archives and the launch of new public initiatives that promote Indigenous archives and archiving practices. Stay tuned!


[1] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Calls to Action,” 2015, accessed December 4, 2018. Updated March 12, 2019. http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

[2, 3] Indigenous Matters Committee, “Mandate,” accessed December 4, 2018. http://cfla-fcab.ca/en/about/committees/indigenous_matters_committee/

Darian Jacobs reviews Wao Kanaka, I ka Wā Mamua, i ka Wā Mahope

She:kon! The leaves are colourful and the autumn chill has embraced us here in Montreal.

The big project of summer 2018 was a second Skins workshop held in Hawai’i! The game Wao Kanaka, I ka Wā Mamua, i ka Wā Mahope, developed by Hawaiians attending the Skins Video Game Workshop, is completed and ready to be downloaded and shared. We here at AbTeC thought it would be fun to have me, a Skins 4.0 alumni, play and review this newest creation. As I have not had the joy of participating in the Hawaiian workshops I can also provide an outsiders view, so here we go!

The main menu of the game (with hidden interactive elements!) (Screenshot. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

Straight from the main menu the game is charming. The game’s audio is in ʻOlelo Hawaiʻi, but you can choose to view the subtitles in English as well. There is the option to choose between Adult and Child, but I didn’t find much difference between the two. The art style of the main game is endearing, with blocky shapes and polygonal surfaces. This was a smart move for creating characters and scenery as it is less difficult to make compared to smooth and rounded surfaces. By embracing this simple style players are more likely to be forgiving of anything strange, which is crucial when a game is being made on such a time crunch as the Skins workshops have.

The Skins 6.0 cohort, Ka Lei Milikaʻa, chose to have all the game’s dialogue in ʻolelo Hawaiʻi. (Cutscene still. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

The voice recording in this game as characters talk and sing is quite good; nice and clear. The music is fantastic as well, and the sound overall really ‘wowed’ me. In cutscenes, where story is being told, the videos are eye-catching and creative. The work put into trying to be informative and entertaining is apparent as the storytelling aspects are succinct and don’t run on too long where players may tune out.

One mini-game involves learning moʻolelo (chants) in ʻolelo Hawaiʻi. (Screenshot. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

The minigames are a mixed bag. After hearing moʻolelo, or chanting, a typing game is unlocked. The player must type in the words in the correct order before they run out of time. It was only in this game that I noticed a difference between selecting Adult or Child at the main menu. Adult seemed to have the words fall faster while Child gave slightly more breathing room. It is a challenging game that brings to mind dark memories of playing learn-to-type games in grade school. On the plus side I did end up paying much closer attention to the words of the chant.

In the second mini-game, the player learns about sustainable resource management. (Screenshot. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

Another minigame comes after learning a lesson about preservation; take one fish and leave one fish. I must admit that I wasn’t able to figure out how to ‘win’ this game. I pulled in my fish and sorted them based on the vocal reactions I heard, tried to split the type 50/50, and finally just did a general even split. I had no indication if I had done things correctly or not, just the stats of fish I caught and so I eventually gave up and moved on.

The final minigame was the hardest for me. The story told here is the most dense, and I would recommend watching it twice so you can appreciate the visuals and absorb the information better. The gameplay portion is no joke! The player is tasked with creating a route for water to flow from a start point, through as many farm plots as possible, and to the reservoir. You are given two path blocks to work with and they’re randomized. The game is not afraid to mess with you and give useless blocks over and over. I really feel like luck is a necessary component to win this one.

The player constructs an irrigation system in the third mini-game. (Screenshot. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

At the end of the day you return to your home to sleep, where an ending scene told me that I had done well, but not well enough. After multiple attempts I had to ultimately accept that I won’t be the savior of the world, however if you play and win please share with us! Tweet at us or post on our Facebook page so that we can congratulate the heroes of nature, or console those who couldn’t overcome the trials.

Regardless of if you win or lose, the game is bright and inviting with an optimistic tone despite the dire warnings. I would recommend giving it a go! Once you’re done you could also take a swing at any of the other Skins games available, all were made with passion.