When Clyde Tootoosis got a call to be part of creating music for a strategy video game, it seemed like an amazing chance to gain global exposure for his Cree culture.
"I've never heard of a drum group singing for a video game so I took the opportunity as a lifetime thing and I just jumped to it, first chance I had, and it was an awesome experience," he said.
Tootoosis is the lead singer for Poundmaker Singers, which is comprised of 15 singers from western Canada.
Since then, however, he has been taken aback to hear that some of his fellow band members from Poundmaker Cree Nation have criticized Civilization VI: Rise and Fall for the inclusion of real-life historical figure Chief Poundmaker and the depiction of First Nations as conquering other peoples and land.
"I felt bad; I felt sorry that certain people were offended by this, and saw it as a negative," he said.
Cree music on a global stage
However, he said he didn't see anything negative in the video game's depiction of Poundmaker, who is regarded as a peacemaker between the Canadian government and First Nations in the late 19th century.
Rather, his focus was on the positive aspect of keeping alive the music of his late uncle, Gordon Tootoosis, who performed as the original lead singer of the group.
"We've never changed the music, we never added anything," he said.
"We just sang it the way he sang it and felt good about it, and to this day, still feel good."
He added he feels Cree music will now be heard across the globe, thanks to the game.
An authentic reflection
Geoff Knorr, who was hired to act as the lead composer for Civilization VI, said he felt fortunate to connect with Tootoosis. Whenever he is tasked with coming up with music for a civilization, he said the goal is to represent and celebrate that culture properly.
'Now the whole world will get to hear this Cree singing, the whole world will learn about Poundmaker and hopefully be inspired to read more about him and what he did.' - Geoff Knorr, composer
"Musically, it's a way of honouring the tradition and bringing the music and the sound and the drumming to an audience far greater than they ever would have on their own," he said.
He said he found it a little "surprising" to hear that no one from the video game approached the First Nation about using Poundmaker as a historical character in the game.
While Take Two Interactive Software, the game's publisher, did not respond to a request for a comment, Knorr said in his past experience and from what he's seen, the developer puts a lot of research and care into creating each version of the game. The latest version is scheduled to launch Feb. 8.
When it comes to the music that will be featured, Knorr said he feels confident it is an authentic reflection of the Cree tradition and drum song.
"Now the whole world will get to hear this Cree singing, the whole world will learn about Poundmaker and hopefully be inspired to read more about him and what he did."