Students explore Anishinaabe culture in a Minecraft version of Manitoba
Manito Ahbee Aki game a partnership between Microsoft Canada and Louis Riel school division
Students in Winnipeg's Louis Riel School division got the first chance to learn, build and explore Manitoba's Anishinaabe environment this week through the virtual world of Minecraft.
Winter Cameron-Catcheway, 9, is an Anishinaabe student at Marion School, which is part of the Louis Riel School Division. She has been playing Minecraft — a popular video game where players explore a world and build items and structures — for two years and was one of the first people to play Minecraft Education's Manito Ahbee Aki, a teaching resource that celebrates and explores Manitoba's Anishinaabe community.
"There's a bunch of animals.... You can build houses and a community, a bunch of interesting things," said Cameron-Catcheway.
The game was developed through 13 months of collaboration between Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers, education consultants and Microsoft Canada.
Anishinaabe elder and grandmother Chickadee Richard played a key role in the development of the game.
"It's so amazing to be able to give them a little bit of who we are, in our culture, in our ceremonies, in our teachings, in our songs; it's all going to be in there," said Richard.
Richard, who has her own character built into the game, said Indigenous children will be proud of the game and non-Indigenous children and teachers will be able to learn about Indigenous people.
"It's about the beauty and strength of our culture and hopefully it will be insightful and hopefully raise the consciousness of the children and the teachers," said Richard.
Bobbi-Jo Leclair, who is Cree from One Arrow First Nation in Saskatchewan, is the Louis Riel School Division's Indigenous Education Consultant and is included in the game as a tour guide.
"As kids get spawned in, we're there to meet them and then to guide them to the different phases that they need to go to. So we don't essentially give them teachings or anything, we just guide them, as a teacher would," said Leclair.
The game takes students through places like The Forks in Winnipeg and the sacred Anishinaabe site Manito Abi, also known as the petroforms in Whiteshell Provincial Park's Bannock Point area.
Leclair said the game will give teachers and students a deeper understanding of Anishinaabe culture and history.
"A lot of what we do in education is starting off with a lot of the trauma, the residential schools, all of the things that happened with the disruption. And we don't necessarily focus as much of what was here before," said Leclair.
"I think that what this game will allow is for students to understand the beauty of what was here before, the teachings, the way of life, so they can really understand what was lost with the disruption and why that disruption had such an impact on our people."
Anthoniheart Orelien is a member of Marion School's e-sports club. The Grade 8 student is a fan of the game and said he can't wait until everyone else gets a chance to play it.
"It's special for me. Learning about Indigenous people is something that you don't get to learn about a lot and so it's nice to get people learned up in Minecraft, so it's fun," said Heart-Orelien.
Marion School principal Corey Kapilik said Manito Ahbee Aki will officially launch Feb. 10 and teacher packages will be available with the game.