Jasmine Kabatay: Indigenous representation in games, greeting cards is refreshing
Sisters Janelle and Betty Pewapsconias created a board game and line of greeting cards with Indigenous themes. A year later, they're ready to support other artists.
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
Ever since she was a child, Janelle Pewapsconias had a knack for creating games. She had to.
“We grew up very poor, but we were very rich in cousins — and the need for things to do. So as the oldest of my family it was kind of our job and duty to keep our younger children entertained,” Janelle told Metro.
Now 31, her passion for providing entertainment continues to this day. Alongside sister Betty Pewapsconias, she started Neeched Up Games, a company that makes board and card games testing Indigenous knowledge and history.
It’s a spin off from their greeting card business, Neechimoose Novelties. (The name comes from the Plains Cree word for sweetheart.)
Like the games, the greeting cards have an Indigenous point of view, with messages rooted in First Nations humour, such as: “Are you wind clan? Cause you just blew me away,” “We vibe together. We should make a tribe together,” and “Our love is like our language, it’s making a comeback!”
The sisters, from Little Pine First Nation in Saskatchewan, launched the greeting cards last year as way to raise funds to attend a youth leadership conference in Winnipeg.
Now after only a year, they are ready to support other artists, fundraising for three Indigenous women to participate in conferences related to game development, an industry dominated by men.
“There’s such a need for diversity and inclusion of different perspectives in the game industries. I find a lot of games sexist, violent, and certain type of ways of thinking which influences behaviour in society,” Janelle said.
With both Neeched Up Games and Neechimoose Novelties, it’s great to see something catered to Indigenous humour and our ways of being. More often than not we don’t have representation in places like games or greeting cards unless we make them ourselves.
The knowledge in Janelle’s games, from treaties to darker history like residential schools, has also been used in classrooms to teach both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
“When we go into teaching spaces, having those teachers really understand and experience and feel to some degree what it’s like to be Indigenous, it kind of shifts their perspective,” she said.
“I don’t see Neeched Up Games as an end-all be-all, but I definitely see it as a starting point for people who want to learn.”
Janelle and Betty are incredibly talented creators and teachers. It makes me want to set up a game night, filled with cousins and friends, for a round of Neeched Up.