Indigenous players advocate for representation and education

(RNS) – Marlon Weekusk, a member of the Onion Lake Cree Nation of Saskatoon, central Canada, is known for his icon: a howling white wolf who has been important to him throughout his spiritual journey in as long as Scream. Those who know him expect conversations about the symbolization of Indigenous peoples and the portrayal of Cree characters in the video games he plays for fun and profit – Call of Duty and Dead by Daylight.

Weekusk is a streamer – an expert video player who plays for an audience of mostly other avid gamers – and like other native streamers, he offers ongoing commentary as he plays: popular game reviews, opinions on games. streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Games and stories about its culture and spirituality.

As known as Weekusk’s identity is to his fans in the small native gaming world, he realizes that he and his culture are hardly recognized in the big game world. And he’s determined to change that by educating. the online world while empowering other indigenous content creators.

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Weekusk said that on native reservations, sports tend to be the main hobby for children, but “there are a lot of native young people who just don’t fit the sports zone,” he said. .

Weekusk falls into the latter category. He and his siblings and cousins ​​spent hours sitting around their TVs chatting. He said it was time to escape.

Today Weekusk, a business student at the University of Saskatchewan, married with two children, broadcasts live on his own channel, Marmar Gaming.

Weekusk occasionally features a Word of the Day during its broadcasts, explaining its meaning and origins. It also answers viewers’ questions: How important is offering tobacco? What is a powwow? What does he think of indigenous characters in video games?

In a recent stream, Weekusk discussed the controversy surrounding the character of Chief Poundmaker in the game Civilization VI. The game developers have been accused of cultural appropriation by the Poundmaker Cree Nation.

Weekusk said his goal is to show that Indigenous streamers can take this creative space and do it successfully. He wants to motivate and inspire other Indigenous peoples to take on similar roles. “Play has allowed me to be a positive role model for young Indigenous children,” he said.

“I’m not prancing in my badges or anything like that,” Weekusk said. “I just share stories and relationships with other people.”

Other native streamers bring their cultures to their gaming platforms. Aretha Greatrix, originally from the Kashechewan First Nation in the James Bay region of northern Ontario, has been broadcasting video games on her SimplyAretha channel for over a year. Greatrix, who was born and raised in Edmonton, Alta., Focuses on promoting community among Indigenous streamers.

“We have to find out who we are, so that we can help each other,” she said.

Last year, for Native American Heritage Month in November, Greatrix invited streamers to her channel to discuss Indigenous representation in video games as they fought live. She has played games such as Never Alone, which includes indigenous communities in its plot, and Civilization VI (despite its appropriation from Chief Poundmaker).

“I try to create a space for education and conversation,” said Greatrix.

Cedric Sweet, from the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, shares his identity with viewers around the world through his ChiefSweet channel, named after his great-grandfather and great-uncle, both of whom were chiefs of his tribe . Sweet said he attracts a mix of native and non-native viewers, leading to a lot of conversations and questions about his culture.

“There are so many native cultures,” said Sweet. “And I’m happy to educate and talk about mine.”

Sweet, who lives in Ada, Oklahoma, said Indigenous people have flocked to video game streaming since its debut in 2016. One reason for the increase, he theorizes, is that connections Historically dismal internet on reservations has slowly improved in the United States and Canada.

“I see so many native streamers in the scene now, it’s really blossoming,” Sweet said. “I think this is the best time to be a native content creator right now.”

Some, however, like Nathan Cheechoo of the Moose Cree First Nation in Treaty 9 territory in northern Ontario, said players in his home region are still waiting for better internet and more recognition. Cheechoo, which broadcasts on its realswampthings channel, likes to advocate for support for the game in the hopes that other indigenous people may choose to continue with it.

Cheechoo said it’s up to the streaming platforms to showcase native gamers on their sites. In the past, Twitch has celebrated Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month. In June, Indigenous History Month in Canada, and in November, Native American Heritage Month in the United States, the platform did not organize any such events.

“It hurts because we can bring so much to platforms across the continent, but outreach support is lacking,” Cheechoo said.

More support and awareness for indigenous content creators means more opportunities, Cheechoo said. It is important to know that there are businesses, games, organizations and platforms that celebrate Indigenous peoples with respect.

“This will allow the future of Aboriginal players to be proud of their identity,” he said.

On the flip side, Cheechoo and Sweet said they don’t get much hate from viewers because they’re indigenous – in part, they said, because commentators don’t realize that indigenous peoples still exist.

“Most people assume that indigenous people are extinct,” Cheechoo said. “So we are definitely not a target for those who like to criticize. ”


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