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Traditional Iñupiaq Story Comes To Life Through Video Game

Categories: U.S.A., Indigenous, Technology, Rising Voices

A traditional Iñupiaq [1] story called Kunuuksaayuka told by Robert Nasruk Cleveland and documented in the book “Stories of the Black River People [2]” has now taken a new life in the form of a video game for PC and other popular gaming consoles. The new game called Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa) continues to receive praise for the unique approach of including Alaskan Native communities in the entire development of the game.

Narrated in the Iñupiat language [3] with English sub-titles, the game tells the story [4] of a young girl named Nuna and her arctic fox companion, who set off to explore and discover the cause of a raging blizzard affecting her community. Even though the character originally was a boy in the story told by Cleveland, the game developers sought out the approval of Minnie Gray [5], Cleveland's daughter to make this change.

The project started as a collaborative initiative by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council [6], which worked with E-Line Media and Upper One Games, which is the first indigenous-owned video game developer. On the video game's blog [7], the makers documented the process, as well as produced this behind-the-scenes video (above) showing how elders, young people, and linguists proudly all took part in the game's development.

Reviews continue to come in, and Roy Boney writes in the Native Peoples blog [8] that Never Alone “is more than a typical video game. It is a cultural experience packaged into a beautiful and thoughtful piece of digital art.”