Entrepreneur hopes game helps to decolonize, Indigenize
- Andréa Ledding | October 13, 2016
Janelle Pewapsconias is bringing “Neeched Up Games” to the world. It all began one Christmas six years ago, when what Janelle described as “the family turkey coma” hit.
“I wanted to make an activity for my family to play together and have some laughs so I concepted this idea before Christmas because it takes time to develop a game,” she said. The board game was focussed around Cree humour: it was a huge hit and they played it back-to-back. “I thought I had a good idea but wasn’t too sure yet.”
She was going to the U of S and working on environmental and social justice issues.
“But we can’t have a healthy planet without healthy people to take care of it,” said Janelle, which is where her game comes in. While working on leadership skills, and she brought the game into workshop spaces which provided resources and supports to continue developing it. “So everything I’ve put into the game in the past 6 years has been through shared experiences, youth events, what our issues are and how we share the world, research (from school) — but also what’s most important to me, the most integral part, is the traditional knowledge that’s included.”
She’s taken the time to research and proceed with proper protocol, being given permission from Elders to share the traditional knowledge in this format.
“It’s grassroots kind of knowledge — fun and funny, but also insightful and authentic.”
Currently both her board game and card came have been working tools with youth in Saskatoon and throughout the province, to teach about teamwork and leadership.
“As a social enterprise, I try to bring across the point that it’s ok to be Indigenous. And urban people feel represented in this game. Youth have reflected that they’ve never been exposed to culture and when it is, it’s very hard for them to learn it. But with the games, they were able to learn in an alternative way but also see themselves in a contemporary way,” shared Janelle, adding that Indigeneity can become romanticized or people can feel “not Indian enough” but the games bring culture to new generations, and build relationships with other non-Indigenous peoples, in a relatable way.
Currently she’s preparing to graduate from Business Administration at SIIT in June, all part of her master plan to work for herself.
“My goal is to share with the world that Indigenous people are valuable, important, our knowledge is as old as the land and those messages should be just as valuable as Canadian or settler knowledges and histories.”
She also wants to provide Indigenous studies teachers with these alternative learning models to promote culture, because from coast to coast to coast the games have resonated with so many nations. In November, she will be telling her story at the University of Minnesota, and looking to do more local workshops in the winter, spring, and summertime to expose new groups to her games and begin her fundraising initiatives to begin producing the games en masse.
“That’s my attempt to decolonize game play and Indigenize Canada.”
Find out more at www.neechedupgames.com or her Facebook page of the same name. She plans to launch a Kickstarter initiative soon too, and encourages other entrepreneurs to plan for, and follow, their dreams.