184: Native Resolution

Native Resolution

A Native American game developer has figured out a way to create new speakers of a language in danger of dying out, and it involves a bit of clever programming. Chris LaVigne speaks with Don Thornton, creator of RezWorld, and examines how native communities are using games to preserve their cultures and traditions.

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Wow, yet another LaVigne article. They must really like you here!

This is my favorite one of yours yet, Chris. Sheer awesome.

Great article. Thank you.

great article!

keep up the great work

(could you also give me some writing tips, i have written about 7 reviews and about 3 news articles and have submitted them to the escapist and every time they turn me down...)

This is something I've been thinking about for a while, though I never would've been able to write an article that was nearly as in-depth as this. As a writer, artist and would-be game designer, it distresses me that so much history, so many stories and so much potential for new ideas, are dying away simply due to lack of mainstream interest. Who knows if a Cherokee fable, an Aborigine creation myth, or an Inuit folktale could form the basis of a fantastic new movie or game? We as a creative species suffer an unimaginable loss every time some part of our history, or some long-handed-down story, is forgotten.

My applause to Don Thornton in his efforts to preserve Native American ways and lore, and I hope that other cultures pick up on this to keep their own history alive.

I really like this idea. Not only can the technology help preserve the legacy of these native groups, but it could help introduce the culture to others.

There's a reason only 65 people in five years want to learn Cherokee: to whom will they speak?

Hebrew made a comeback due the fact that there was a large Jewish community that used it for religious purposes and scholars willing to bring it into the modern world and a (relatively) powerful nation willing to adopt and enforce it as their governmental tongue. And yet, advertisements in Israel are still being made in Yiddish, Arabic, and Russian. The [a href="http://www.cherokee.org/"]Cherokee Nation[/i] doesn't even have it's website available in Cherokee, let alone use it as their primary language. No website, no newspaper, no television broadcasts are in Cherokee. All that is going to have to change if Cherokee is going to have a future.

Also, I resent that notion that "resource gathering and territorial conquest" are somehow "Eurocentric". Does no one recall the Aztecs? Mongols? Chinese? Incas? Ottomans? Mughals? Native Americans were neither noble nor savage, but people who built, fought, lived, and died no better or worse than their brethren in Europe.

Veylon:
There's a reason only 65 people in five years want to learn Cherokee: to whom will they speak?

Hebrew made a comeback due the fact that there was a large Jewish community that used it for religious purposes and scholars willing to bring it into the modern world and a (relatively) powerful nation willing to adopt and enforce it as their governmental tongue. And yet, advertisements in Israel are still being made in Yiddish, Arabic, and Russian. The [a href="http://www.cherokee.org/"]Cherokee Nation[/i] doesn't even have it's website available in Cherokee, let alone use it as their primary language. No website, no newspaper, no television broadcasts are in Cherokee. All that is going to have to change if Cherokee is going to have a future.

I'm not sure you properly understand the situation. Heck, I'm not even sure if I do because I can't for the life of me imagine advocating for what past generations have done to their various original land owners in order to eradicate and assimilate them for their own goals. Are you familiar with residential schools? Not all that long ago, aboriginal youth were sent to schools where they were immersed in mumahucnee, sorry, WASP euro-centric and north american-centric culture. Do you know what happened if those children spoke their native tongue or used their local customs? Well documented cases of ritualistic abuse and I don't just mean a light spanking either. Parents were even thrown in prison if they refused to send their children. Those few people left who speak and live their culture and language were either the people who practiced it in secret or had parents who hid their children when government agents came around their home. Surprise, surprise - between being confined legally to small parcels of the territory they originally inhabited (don't think that way of life has not affected their culture) and the systematic breakdown of their culture, which was often done by people who thought they were doing it for their own good, and now most "reserves" resemble ghettos or even third world villages lacking all the fine resources you take for granted. Good thing some people still care and our trying to reach their next generation, then maybe one day you will see their website(s) done in their local language as well - how many great grand parents do you know who design and build websites anyways? What I am trying to say is that it isn't for a lack of the newer generation not having a desire to learn because of a lack of other practitioners, but rather than the number who can speak and teach it are being lost to the usual suspects, such as old age complications, and even with that it is rather surprising how many of them still have the heart to teach after all the abuse (and living with the long term affects of that abuse) they have been through in their long years.

As far as the article goes, very well done. One of the more surprising things that drew me to it, because I don't see it all that often so it catches my eye, is the picture of a lady who has west coast North American native facial qualities. All too often I get used to seeing people who are actually of other decent playing the part of aboriginal people, despite there being actual native peoples quite skilled enough to represent. Like Adam Beach, man that guy can act.

I liked this article far more than the other two that I've read ("Gangbangers, Victims, and Whores" and "See No Evil") here today and others I've read across the Internet for this reason: it's positive. The others are just decrying the supposed racism that pervades the gaming industry. This one doesn't attempt to lay blame for why groups are stereotyped or under-represented; rather it's pointing out what the issue at hand is and what's being done by whom to fix it.

CanadianWolverine:

I'm not sure you properly understand the situation. Heck, I'm not even sure if I do because I can't for the life of me imagine advocating for what past generations have done to their various original land owners in order to eradicate and assimilate them for their own goals.

I don't advocate this kind of forced assimilation. If I recall correctly, it counts as cultural genocide. It's brutal, arrogant, and cruel.

The point I was trying to make is that Cherokee is not in common use even among the leading members of the Cherokee community, and that it's a long row to hoe if Cherokee is going to make a comeback. It was not my intent to denigrate the Cherokee language or it's speakers. Maybe we will see a resurgence in it's popularity, both written and spoken. Who knows?

By the way, the one crime you missed is that the Cherokees aren't confined to a small part of their original territory. They were originally in Florida and forced to walk all the way to Oklahoma.

Edit:

In addition, I would like to say that it's nice to see private groups finally taking action. For too long the only thing being done was to record the last words of various elders so that they could be stored in dusty boxes beneath the Library of Congress. So, kudos to Mr. Thornton.

Interesting article but I too dislike the politically correct position concerning 'Eurocentricity' of conquest and gathering of resources. When people make claims like this they either make the implication unintentionally or are ignorant of the accurate historical context surrounding the subject.

Veylon:

CanadianWolverine:

I'm not sure you properly understand the situation. Heck, I'm not even sure if I do because I can't for the life of me imagine advocating for what past generations have done to their various original land owners in order to eradicate and assimilate them for their own goals.

I don't advocate this kind of forced assimilation. If I recall correctly, it counts as cultural genocide. It's brutal, arrogant, and cruel.

The point I was trying to make is that Cherokee is not in common use even among the leading members of the Cherokee community, and that it's a long row to hoe if Cherokee is going to make a comeback. It was not my intent to denigrate the Cherokee language or it's speakers. Maybe we will see a resurgence in it's popularity, both written and spoken. Who knows?

By the way, the one crime you missed is that the Cherokees aren't confined to a small part of their original territory. They were originally in Florida and forced to walk all the way to Oklahoma.

Edit:

In addition, I would like to say that it's nice to see private groups finally taking action. For too long the only thing being done was to record the last words of various elders so that they could be stored in dusty boxes beneath the Library of Congress. So, kudos to Mr. Thornton.

It is a good point you bring up and I agree, I am glad that the cultures are taking steps to reach the next generation through new learning methods that involve games. I just want to make it clear, I was not trying to suggest that you were advocating for forced assimilation, I was only bringing it up because it had terrible repercussions in the lack of practitioners that you cited. Glad to know that you recognize as well the pile o'crap past generations have left for us.

Oh man, good lord knows I would rather see a resurgence of many different cultures and languages in games, especially if it means I have to put up with less "leet speak".

Okay. It's just hard to guess at the tone of voice one intends to use on the internet when all you have are the words to go by. As for cultures in games, we've gotten a good ride off of King Arthur, the Greeks, the Norse, and 1001 Nights. It'll be nice to see what other mythologies have to offer.

Why don't they mention PREY? That's got a native hero in it, with some . . spiritual values it seems. Though, not knowing the history I wouldn't be the best judge.

This is a great article. Good to see game development within Native American culture being promoted by people like Beth Dillon. It is imperative for any culture to adopt new technologies to remain dynamic. After the terrors visited on them by the American colonists it will be great to see a rebirth with their voice in games.
Learning Native languages is fine. It will not stop people learning English and there are many arguments that learning more than one language develops greater thinking. It is perfectly natural to want to learn the language of your ancestors e.g. Gaelic is making a strong comeback.
This is an exciting time and I look forward to future Native American games.

 

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