News Roundup

Indigenous Tech and Media News Roundup: Aboriginal Day Edition

Happy (late) Canadian Aboriginal Day which our northern neighbors celebrated 21 June. Here’s a roundup of indigenous tech and media in the news, categorized by media type.


  • Apple’s 2013 Developer video features an indigenous-owned mobile app development group that I profiled here and at Rising Voices. It’s a beautiful video that focuses on the creation of the  Inuvialuktun app.
  • I was thrilled to see the New Yorker not only profile the indigenous language app First Voices Chat, but also touch on the politics and limits of techno-mimicry upon which many indigenous textual interfaces rely. A great read from the New Yorker.
  • Hemisphere Games finally released an Inuktitut-version of Osmos, Apple’s iPad 2010 Game of the Year. Pingguaq, the non-for-profit tech company based in Pang, Nunavut, crowd-sourced the translation to over 100 Inuit elders and youth in Nunavut. They explain the process in the video below:
  • In the past I give projects like this a hard time because Inuktitut is overwhelmingly a spoken – not a written/read – language. However, I applaud Pingguaq’s efforts to show Inuit kids their language deserves a space in gaming just as much as any other. The group  has some great projects under way, including plans to pitch a Nunavut Code Club to bring programming basics to kids across the territory.
  • The Cook Inlet Tribal Council of Alaska founds Upper One, the first indigenous-owned gaming company in America. They are partnering with E-Line media, according to an announcement at the recent Games for Change event. They hope to draw from traditional Alaska Native stories and make video games for a global audience. USA Today and Alaska Native News cover the story.  Forbes has a great piece on the future of gaming, mythology and story telling in the context of Upper One.


  • The Australian government is hoping to take a look at cyber-bullying in indigenous communities. Hopefully they will take this opportunity to educate and train Aboriginals in digital literacy , not control the way they use online tools. You can download the report, “Inquiry into Issues Surrounding Cyber-safety for Indigenous Australians,” here. Last week I posted the first video I’d seen addressing the issue.
  • Here’s a great interview with Tyson Mowarin, an Aboriginal man involved in several digital technology initiatives, including a “Welcome to Country” App, the Digital Dreamtime blog and


  • Australian mental health organization beyondblue has launched an information video to raise awareness about major depression among the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander population. Watch “Story for Keeping Strong” here.
  • Finally, Maya across Central America will get to share in Latin America’s favorite media pastime: telenovelas. Baktún, the first soap opera produced in a Maya language, debuted at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City this week. They hope to broadcast in other Latin American countries, including Bolivia and Peru. (La Jornada, es) I love this quote via Sinembargo: ” …la lengua maya duerme de 6 a 8 de la noche, porque a esas horas toda la gente está viendo en televisión su telenovela favorita, donde todos hablan en castellano y nadie habla el maya.”


  • The Sundance Institute and Time Warner announced 11 artists for their 2013 Fellowship, including four Native Producing Fellows (Webwire).
  • Fifty Native American teens recently flew to Seattle to participate in the SuperFly flash film workshop. NPR affiliate KPLU reports.
  • The National Museum of the American Indian has an interview with Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin.
  • Eagle Lake (pre-production) – Native American acting legend Saginaw Grant produces his first film (Native American Times).
  • Gifts from the Elders – this Canadian documentary chronicles indigenous health issues; local youth and elders together charts a traditional path forward to wellbeing (Western University)
  •  Mystery Road – 2013 was the first year an indigenous film opened the Sydney Film Festival (The Guardian).
  • Satellite Boy – Catriona McKenzie’s story about a struggle in the Aboriginal outback premiered this month in Australia (ABC At The Movies).
  • Aboriginal Heart – a young city doctor gets bamboozled by the gentle cunning and stunning art of a group of local Aboriginal women. Q&A with the director here.
  • Who Are My People? – This documentary takes a look at the impact of large-scale solar ventures on Native American life in Southern California (LA Times). More from East County Magazine.
  • Regaining Food Sovereignty – A one-hour long television documentary out of the USA that takes a look at traditional Native American hunting, gathering, and food (Indian Country).
  • Cultural Flows – two powerfully-shot documentaries that explore Indigenous Australian’s deep connections to the rivers and waterways in their Country (FOEA).
  • The Lone Ranger – So, is he or isn’t he? Indian Country examines the politics of representation, Johnny Depp’s claims to indigenous heritage, and steps Disney could take to better understand the impact on native audiences.


  • The Northern Ontario Initiative, a project by the Wawatay Native Communications Society and Journalists for Human Rights, has won the Canadian Ethnic Media Association’s Innovation Award. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Initiative will train 30 Aboriginal people living in remote reserve communities, to produce and sell radio and print news stories about their communities. The project will also host a workshop series in Thunder Bay for Aboriginal people and journalists, which will lead to improved media coverage of Aboriginal issues in the city.”
  • The NGO Cultural Survival is developing a radio program to help inform indigenous peoples about their right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. They hope to translate these programs into as many indigenous languages as possible (First Peoples Worldwide)
  • The massive planned High Arctic Research Station in Canada incorporates Inuit traditional knowledge into its design concepts (CBC).
  • Jordan Wheeler’s new novel touches on the role of new media and mass indigenous movements (APTN).
  • Love it: a young Inuit girl who gained attention for posting a version of Rhianna’s song “Diamonds” in Inuktitut on YouTube gets her time to shine live (Nunatsiaq News Online).

3 thoughts on “Indigenous Tech and Media News Roundup: Aboriginal Day Edition

  1. Thanks for bringing attention to the Osmos release. As it relates to the use of Syllabics, I mostly agree that it doesn’t make sense for an oral culture to be presented in this sense. Unfortunately the reality of having to bring together voice actors, record them then input the audio into a game is far more complex than simply writing. As a first attempt at translating a mainstream game, it has been well received.

    In Pangnirtung, the use of Syllabics is fairly universal. It is taught from Daycare, through school. My children (4 and 2) are learning it in daycare and it continues through schooling. (I’m not sure about high school). The older generation has a very good understanding of it. What I noticed when testing the App is elders had no problem reading it, it was automatic. Everyone 40 and under had varying degrees of literacy skills, but for the most part it was strong.

    Having said that, I agree with most of what you’ve written in the article you link. Syllabics were introduced by Missionaries to ensure the bible could be translated. (Completely unscientific/unproven observation: To this date I would bet you that those who are the strongest at reading syllabics are also the most religious.)

    It’s a mixed bag when you translated someone else’s work (Osmos had no dialogue, it was all written). But in our original game we’re in the process of developing, it will all be in Inuktitut audio/dialogue.

    If anyone is interested I will be (probably) giving a talk on the Osmos translation, the process and this very topic/conundrum at the Museum of Inuit Art in Toronto around July 20th (Details and confirmation pending). Thanks! Ryan- Pinnguaq

  2. Pingback: The Power of Play: my interview with Pinnguaq founder Ryan Oliver | Global Native Networks

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