The Rise of Kagagi! Talking with Algonquin Comic Artist & Writer, Jay Odjick

Reblogged from Ad Astra Comix, posted by nicolemarieburton, about Indigenous comic creator Jay Odjick!

Featured Image -- 299

It’s not particularly surprising that Jay Odjick received his first rejection letter from a mainstream comic book publisher (Marvel) at the age of 10.

Jay Odjick: “As a kid, I really dug Spider-Man – I’d read anything, but after a few years started to gravitate a bit toward the darker characters. They kind of fit more closely with my experiences and environment.
We would go and buy unsold issues for like a dime or something – the store would rip the covers off and sell ‘em cheap and we weren’t rich, so that worked out for us. Comics are a good chunk of how I learned to read.”

Needless to say, Odjick and Marvel had some divergent world views. Odjick was an Algonquin kid living off-reservation in a decimated neighborhood.

Read full post here: http://adastracomix.com/2015/04/25/jayodjick/.

Chapters Worth Reading!

digitalculturebooks, an imprint of the University of Michigan Press, provides free, open access to scholarly works relating to digital humanities and new media. Accessible on this resource is Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History with Technology edited by Kevin Kee. First of all, let me say, the entire book is worth the read! All chapters are informational about learning and implementing digital history. But, in terms of digital Indigenous history, two chapters in particular prevail. The chapters are: “Interactive Worlds as Educational Tools for Understanding Arctic Life” by Richard Levy and Peter Dawson, and “Tecumseh Lies Here: Goals and Challenges for a Pervasive History Game in Progress” by Timothy Compeau and Robert MacDougall. Secondly, it should be stated that I am not a expert in these technological fields. I am learning. So, if you’re wanting a better understanding of such digital history creations, check out the articles.

The authors of “Interactive Worlds as Educational Tools for Understanding Life” argue that virtual environments may assist in the revitalization of Indigenous cultures. Levy and Dawson primarily focus on the case studies of the Thule Whalebone House. Specifically, the digital reconstructions of Thule dwellings in the Canadian Arctic. These archaeological findings are presented in 3D models. Indigenous cultures, and other people, have been shown this reconstruction on a website, and as well, in a 3D virtual theatre. Immersive virtual reality theatres can also be referred to as a computer automated virtual environment — or simply CAVE.

First of all, the authors point out that certain archaeological projects, much like the Thule whalebone house, have focused on accessibility. For remote Indigenous communities, it may be difficult to attend a museum or seminar. Thus, these archaeologists (and others involved in this Arctic project) decided that a simple internet connection would be adequate in bringing forth these research findings. This is especially important for the Inuit people because “original communities” should have some sort of access to their artifacts. Levy and Dawson suggest that virtual environments of an artifact provides opportunity to expand on further professional and public research. In the case Thule structure, perhaps ethnographic information or Aboriginal oral stories. The Canadian High Arctic project, which collaborated with organizations like Virtual Museums, displayed their content on websites, in a 3D virtual theatre, and also a kiosks. For this piece, we shall only concentrate on the website and CAVE. The website does provide access to anyone with Internet; however, a 3D virtual theatre may be harder to get to.

On the website Thule Whalebone House, audience members may visually acknowledge the computational 3D whalebone structures that once, a long, long time ago the Thule, now the modern-day Inuit people, once lived in. The site provides an understanding of the past Thule lifestyle. The immersive experience comes from 3D virtual environments. The authors claim that “digital replicas” of artifacts that are inaccessible or no longer exist may help Indigenous cultures reconnect with their heritage. And at the University of Calgary’s Schlumberger iCenter, which is a 3D visualization facility, students and Elders participated in a viewing of the whalebone house and others. Inuit Elders, in particular, had a strong emotional response to the environment as it was representative of their history, culture, and identity.

Now to move from 3D virtual environments to games. In “Tecumseh Lies Here: Goals and Challenges for a Pervasive History Game in Progress,” Compeau and MacDougall explain the world of ARG, and a current history project. Honestly, the provided explanation for the term was a tad hard to grasp but then, I checked Wikipedia for the simpler understanding. You may want to do the same as the “field” is complex. Sticking to the article, however, it is stated that Augmented Reality Games, or pervasive games, are not contained in one virtual space. Generally, the online interactive game activity has a storyline, connects numerous users, can have time limits, and uses transmedia. They are intended to dissolve the boundaries between the gaming world and reality. 

Compeau and MacDougall argue that the ARG platform is comparable with “inquiry-oriented history pedagogy.”Meaning that such games suit the history educational technique of investigative research that uses primary and secondary sources. Using an educational, engaging and playful historical approach, the creators of the now concluded game Tecumseh Lies Here mixed American-Canadian-Aboriginal history with ARG. The game concentrates on the mystery surrounding Tecumseh, a Shawnee war-chief, during the War of 1812. Without going into too much detail, during the War of 1812, Tecumseh and his Aboriginal confederacy allied with the British to fight against the Americans. It is commonly suggested that at the Battle of Thames, in October 1813, Tecumseh died. This is where the pervasive game comes in. Tecumseh’s remains were never found or identified, thus his death is surrounded with controversy. Perhaps he did die at the Battle, or perhaps he didn’t. In Tecumseh Lies Here, which blends fiction and history, players attempt to solve the mystery of the remains of the Shawnee war leader.

It is important to note that the Chief and the War of 1812 is memorialized differently depending on nationality and identity. The same goes for the interpretation of Tecumseh’s death. And this is why the pervasive game topic makes for such a interesting case. The article also expands on the problems and challenges that ARG creators face. This includes issues with educational games, ethics, time, cost, impact, etc. Regardless of the problems, pervasive games seems to have potential as a digital history medium. Currently, the big problem is it that people (like me) cannot play Tecumseh Lies Here as it’s already completed.

I really hope these Article examples supply inspiration about the vast possibilities associated with digital Indigenous history! It is projects like these, ones that incorporate accessibility, interactivity, engaging history pedagogy, creativity, and finally playfulness, that will (continue to) change the landscape of Indigenous history.


Notes:

Richard Levy and Peter Dawson, “Interactive Worlds as Educational Tools for Understanding Arctic Life,” In Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History with Technology, ed. Kevin Kee (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014) 66-87. 

Timothy Compeau and Robert MacDougall, “Tecumseh Lies Here: Goals and Challenges for a Pervasive History Game in Progress,” In Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History with Technology, ed. Kevin Kee (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014) 87-109. 

Indigenous Digital Storytelling

This posting is not a how-to guide, but a condensed explanation of what Indigenous digital storytelling is and why it is important.

In the work Story Circle: Digital Storytelling Around the World, the authors of the Chapter “Computational Power Meets Human Contact” state that the term, digital storytelling, may be simply defined as “a…practice in which people…use digital media to create short audio-video stories.”  Represented as a social movement, digital storytelling is currently being used across the globe for all sorts of various reasons. It is claimed that digital storytelling’s purpose is “simple and human,” meaning that storytelling is an everlasting tradition. By the means of technology, human narratives have entered into digital age.

Indigenous digital storytelling (aka digital oral storytelling) falls into the above description. For Indigenous cultures, oral storytelling is essential to education and preservation. Storytelling, in this sense, does not mean a tale about a meaningless dinner-date. Instead the narratives told are culturally dependent which include ways of knowing, meaning, and purpose.

Lakehead University Professor and Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge, Judy M. Iseke produced an article titled “Indigenous Digital Storytelling in Video: Witnessing with Alma Desjarlais.” In this work, Iseke claims that Indigenous digital storytelling blends cultural knowledge and modern ways in a ways that can tell-retell histories while still honouring traditions and ancestors. The four Candian-Aboriginal Elders, including Cree/Metis Alma Desjarlais, that Iseke worked with on her film project (Voices in the Wind Productions) recognize that we are currently living in the Internet age, and thus, understand the importance of digital video and audio stories. Alma’s stories, in particular, invites the audience “to attend to the past and reconsider our futures.”

Informative is a key word associated with this digital history method. Indigenous digital storytelling are meant to educational for the audience. While target audiences can be generally be nonspecific, it may be presumed that there is a desire to attract younger Aboriginal generations. Why — because it encompasses the timeless learning tradition of oral storytelling, historical told by word of mount, between Elders and younger people.

Creators of this digital method do not have restrictions on their informative message. As in, there can be multiple context showcased in a audio-video short. For instance, in “Narrating Aboriginality On-Line: Digital Storytelling, Identity and Healing,” the authors Naomi Adelson & Michelle Olding state that Indigenous digital narratives may be “simultaneously” historical, aspirational, and recuperative. Basically, the contextual process involves blending history, reinforcing Indigenous identity-culture, and promoting a healing process through technological means.

For more information, check out my “Notes” and “Related Websites.” Also, certain provided links below include examples!


Notes:

John Harlem and Kelly McWilliam, “Computational Power Meets Human Contact,” In Story Circle : Digital Storytelling Around the World, ed. John Harlem and Kelly McWilliam (Chichester, UK; Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) 1-2.

Judy M. Iseke, “Indigenous Digital Storytelling in Video: Witnessing with Alma Desjarlais,” Equity & Excellence in Education 44, no. 3 (2011): 311–29.

Naomi Adelson and Michelle Olding, “Narrating Aboriginality On-Line: Digital Storytelling, Identity and Healing,” The Journal of Community Informatics 9, no. 2 (2013), http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/article/view/740/1004.

Related Websites: 

Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (Concordia University)
Indigenous Australian Voices (ACMI)
Indigenous Stories — Center for Digital Storytelling
Resistance To Residential Schools: Digital Stories (University of Victoria)
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 

Oral history goes digital as Google helps map ancestral lands

With the collaboration of Google and University of Victoria anthropologists, Ray Harris, a Stz’uminus First Nation elder, is in the process of producing a historical Indigenous GIS project.

The project allows Mr. Harris to connect with aboriginal youth, who will be able to access traditional history and remain connected to their Hul’qumi’num language on smart phones and laptops. He hopes it will break down barriers that exist between his community and his non-aboriginal neighbours. Plus, there is an equally important utility: The technology will be used in the pursuit of a treaty – an unresolved land claim that goes back generations, when the first British colliers settled on the banks of what is now called Ladysmith to mine the region’s rich coal seams.

Read Justine Hunter’s full article here: 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/oral-history-goes-digital-as-google-helps-map-ancestral-lands/article19566302/

Rhymes for Young Ghouls

“Eye-catching feature about a teenage. Aboriginal. Revenge-seeking drug-dealer. Red Crow Mi’g Maq reservation, 1976: By government decree, every Indian child under the age of 16 must attend residential school. In the kingdom of the Crow, that means imprisonment at St. Dymphna’s. That means being at the mercy of “Popper”, the sadistic Indian agent who runs the school. At 15, Aila is the weed princess of Red Crow. Hustling with her uncle Burner, she sells enough dope to pay Popper her “truancy tax,” keeping her out of St.Ds. But when Aila’s drug money is stolen and her father Joseph returns from prison, the precarious balance of Aila’s world is destroyed. Her only options are to run or fight… and Mi’g Maq don’t run.”

I have not seen Jeff Burnaby’s film Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2014), so no personal evaluation will be given. Luckily enough, however, reviews have been written, and certain ones perked my interest.

For instance, Chelsea Vowel’s “Why every Canadian should watch Rhymes for Young Ghouls” (CBC), and “Rhymes for Young Ghouls is a grim story of survival” by Liam Lacey (Globe and Mail). I’m not going to summarize the articles as you can read them for yourself but, in their way both authors agree that while Burnaby’s work is fiction it’s filled with grim Canadian-Aboriginal historical truths.

As this film may connect to digital Indigenous history, and also because it has a bad-ass Aboriginal heroine, Rhymes for Young Ghouls is on my watchlist!

Source: Monterey Media, Rhymes for Young Ghoulshttp://www.montereymedia.com/rhymesforyoungghouls/ .

Indigenous Research Methodology

In this post, I will briefly examine the modern academic environment of Indigenous research methodologies. It is important to note that Indigenous methodologies have various purposes and objectives, all which cannot be discussed in this piece. Thus the focus here will be what this methodology means to history. Methodology, to be clear, just means the way in which research is undertaken.

In the past, issues have arisen with Indigenous research-based works. Chilisa Bagele’s Indigenous Research Methodologies, which focuses on the postcolonial methodology, explain that scholarly research was primarily founded on Western ideologies that denied “knowledge systems” of colonized and marginalized peoples. Due to this, from a current perspective, there have been representations of Indigenous cultures that are racist, inaccurate, power-driven, mystified, objectifying, etc. And previous research may have been used to support colonialism or have been intellectual stolen.

In “What is an Indigenous Research Methodology?”, the author Shawn Wilson claims “we need to move…to research from an Indigenous paradigm.” Although Wilson’s article is more centralized on social science research rather than the arts, he does reflect upon useful historical research tactics. For instance, it is fundamental to understand that knowledge is shared and “relational.” Researchers and Indigenous peoples enter into a relationship based on that shared knowledge. As a result, researchers have certain accountabilities in such relation.

The authors of Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, which is again told from a social science research perspective, expands further on this idea. It is stated that such methodology must be ethical, moral, evidential based, and Indigenous participants must have access to findings and publications. Also, the research “must represent indigenous persons honestly, without distortion or stereotype, and the research should [honour] indigenous knowledge.” The methodology should be designed in a way that respects Indigenous knowledge, avoids misusing or distortion information, protects intellectual property rights, provides Indigenous peoples with a voice, recognizes those participants involved with acknowledgements, and allows for easy accessibility.

In “An Essay About Indigenous Methodology” Jelena Porsanger defines the indigenous research approach in a simple yet to the point manner — “as an ethically correct and culturally appropriate, Indigenous manner of taking steps towards the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge about indigenous peoples.”

All of the specified publications expressed that Indigenous research methodology should be beneficial to Indigenous peoples, and this can be in terms of promoting awareness, cultural preservation, and supporting identity. With that being said, the researcher is still constructing scholarly historical research, so benefiting Indigenous culture just for the sake of doing so without evidence is not approved. This methodology approach, in my opinion, is purely for intellectual purposes — it does not require a political stance.

Please refer to the Notes and the Honourable mentions for references and further resources.


Notes

Chilisa Bagele, Indigenous Research Methodologies (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012) 1-2.

Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, eds., Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2008) 1-21.

Jelena Porsanger,  “An Essay About Indigenous Methodology”, Nordlit 8, no. 1 (2004): 109.

Shawn Wilson, “What is an Indigenous Research Methodology?”, Canadian Journal of Native Education 25, no. 2 (2001): 175-179.

Honourable mentions

Kovach, Margaret. Indigenous Methodologies Characteristics, Conversations and Contexts. Toronto ON: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. Decolonizing Methodologies : Research and Indigenous Peoples. 2nd ed. London: Zed Books, 2012.

Wilson, Shawn. Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. Halifax: Fernwood Pub, 2008.