We’re still here. Indigenous people, that is. I’m one of them. I am from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Cherokee Nation. I enjoy creating beadwork like my ancestors before me, or rather I am learning to. I grew up in California and Arizona where Indigenous cultures are entirely different from my own. But I did travel to Oklahoma and North Carolina frequently, the ancestral homelands of my people. I have fond memories of competing in jingle dress competitions at powwows, surrounded by brightly colored fabrics, beating drums, and the metallic tinkling of the cones sewn into the dresses. I’ve enjoyed stick ball games at fall festivals and times of solemn prayer during sweat ceremonies. I remember my father teaching me to use a bow.
I’m also an Xbox Software Engineer. I provide backend support for the various Xbox Stores, coding features and ensuring that services are running smoothly. I studied electrical engineering in college, but my basic knowledge of coding plus Microsoft-provided training in areas such as databases and networking has helped me grow in this role. Here at Microsoft, I find endless opportunities to learn, and I’m always solving new types of problems and pursuing new technologies. I leverage the support of my teammates and colleagues and together we are creating the best platforms for our Gamers and Publishers.
In college, I was one of the only Indigenous students in the hard sciences. I became involved with our local AISES chapter, which at the time was led by non-Indigenous allies. During my senior year, I led our local AISES chapter, and the entire board was comprised of Indigenous people. It was through the AISES National Conference that I had the opportunity to interview with Microsoft and start my internship which led me to where I am today.
When I started working at Microsoft, I struggled with imposter syndrome. I wondered if I could really belong here. Thankfully, I’ve felt supported in my role and feel that my talents are recognized and being put to good use. I’m beginning to feel that I can contribute and even do more; I hope to design a short video game that tells an Indigenous story. I dream of seeing more representation of Indigenous peoples in games and behind them, as creators.
We’re still here. We’re still telling our stories and passing on our cultural knowledge through various mediums, including video games. I hope to see more of our stories represented in the gaming industry because games are a beautiful medium to perpetuate stories through art, music, and written narrative.
Here are a few ways that Team Xbox will be uplifting the voices of Indigenous people this year:
Xbox + AISES Partnership Announce
In partnership with AISES, Xbox commits to proudly uplifting the voices of Indigenous Peoples who are reclaiming their stories and shaping our future. This fall, we’re joining AISES at their national conference in Spokane, WA to showcase games with Indigenous creators, content, and stories. Each one illuminates the stories of and by Indigenous Peoples and capture the spirit and resilience of Indigenous cultures worldwide. AISES shares our commitment to substantially increasing representation of Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands in science, technology, engineering, and math. Together we stand firm in our commitment to promoting these unique and essential voices. We invite you to honor their stories and join us at the conference, which you can find more information about here.
Indigenous Peoples the world over have a rich tradition of storytelling. Yet for too long, their stories have gone unheard, their identities unseen—it’s time for them to be revitalized everywhere, especially in worldbuilding through the future of gaming. Throughout the year, we will be working with AISES to identify opportunities to bring more Indigenous talent and storytelling to the video gaming industry.
Gaming and Impact with Rewards
Microsoft Rewards members in the United States can earn and donate points to organizations supporting Indigenous communities with Xbox. The organizations below will be featured on console throughout August:
- AISES: AISES is a national nonprofit organization focused on substantially increasing the representation of Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies and careers.
- First Nations Development Institute: The mission of First Nations Development Institute is to strengthen American Indian economies to support healthy Native communities. They invest in and create innovative institutions and models that strengthen asset control and support economic development for American Indian people and their communities.
Xbox gamers can earn Microsoft Rewards points in various ways, such as playing or purchasing games eligible games on the Microsoft Store. Earn points and redeem them for real rewards. Join us today and donate through Xbox.
Skábma – Snowfall is Now Available on Xbox
Skábma – Snowfall is an Indie game by Red Stage Entertainment and Plug-In Digital inspired by the beliefs and folktales of indigenous Sámi people. You play as Áilu, a young Sámi whose ordinary reindeer herding day turns into an adventure. As you play through Skábma – Snowfall, learn the old ways of the Noaidis, the Sámi Healers. Harness the powers of the Noaidi Drum and the Familiar Spirits to fight against a disorder spreading across the land! Skábma – Snowfall is available on Xbox today!
Artist Kaylene Big Knife Shares Her Inspiration for the Xbox Logo Redesign
This year for for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Xbox commissioned artist Kaylene Big Knife to redesign this year’s Xbox logo. Check out her story below:
Growing up, artist Kaylene spent most of her time at her Grandma Minnie’s house on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in Montana. Her grandma’s house sits on a hill overlooking the powwow grounds that swell every August with the singing and drumming of the summer celebration. Kaylene remembers camping out on the living room floor and feeling the excitement of the first drumbeats, and if there were enough dancers, she could hear their bells.
Reminiscent of those idyllic warm summer days, Kaylene used the sun as the focal point of her design. Her life mantra is “with the sun,” whose radiant glow, in her words, “reminds me that I must rise to the occasion with strength and warmth serving my community the best way I know how, through art.” Kaylene also added wild strawberries and juneberries to the design in honor of her Grandma Minnie, whom Kaylene describes as a master berry-picker.
Kaylene was also inspired by the Chippewa Cree floral designs of her Great-Grandpa Big Knife’s regalia. Working from black and white photos, she revitalized the motifs using her signature bold color palettes. Finally, she added bands of color representing ribbon skirts, which are part of modern Indigenous fashion.
“The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is a time to remember and celebrate the brilliance and hope that Indigenous people have contributed and continue to contribute to the world,” says Kaylene. “We’re here, defining futures.” Check out more of Kaylene’s work on her website.
Explore Games Curated by Indigenous Communities at Microsoft
Indigenous peoples have used storytelling, art, music, and dance to communicate cultural, environmental, and spiritual knowledge since time immemorial. Video games, which combine storytelling, visual, and audio arts are a valuable resource to continue sharing Indigenous stories for generations to come.
During August and beyond, we are featuring a variety of game collections spanning Indigenous creators, playable characters, and titles inspired by Indigenous cultures around the world. Available through the Microsoft Store on Xbox and Windows, check out the Indigenous community games collection that will exist year-round as part of our ongoing work to create more inclusive gaming ecosystems and elevate content that resonates with communities. For Xbox Game Pass members, check out the first ever Xbox Game Pass Indigenous community collection and PC Game Pass Indigenous community collection.
Featured titles within the collections include:
Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition (Available with Xbox Game Pass on PC) – The World’s Edge team partnered with tribes represented in the game to more accurately depict Indigenous North American civilizations shown in Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition. Many changes were implemented, including art updates, in-game voices, storylines, game mechanics, and the campaign was rewritten from the point of view of a Native American. This is a great example of how bringing perspectives of subject matter experts into the process creates better experiences for everyone.
Trek to Yomi (Available with Xbox Game Pass on Console, PC, and Cloud, Rated M) – Inspired by classic Japanese cinematography and themes of historical Japan and Shinto mythology, Trek to Yomi is an action-adventure game set in the Edo period of feudal Japan that follows the young samurai Hiroki on his quest to the underworld. The team at Flying Wild Hog consulted with Japanese Edo period historian Aki Tabei Matsunaga to portray the culture, atmosphere, and aesthetics more accurately in the game. They even recruited a traditional Japanese orchestra for the game’s soundtrack for maximum immersion into the past.
Umurangi Generation Special Edition (Available on Console and PC) – From Māori developer, Naphtali Faulkner, Umurangi Generation explores some heavy context of real-world problems in a fantasy futuristic world that is tied closely to Māori heritage. Set in Tauranga, Aotearoa, this first-person photography game deals with ethical issues like fascism, climate change, abandoned youth, police brutality, and racism.
Spirit Lake (Available on PC) – From Native American activist, Dr. AnnMaria De Mars and Dr. Erich Longie (Spirit Lake Dakota), 7 Generation Games make video games and interactive apps that teach math, social studies, and language arts while incorporating historically accurate Native American culture and traditions, with the goal of reaching indigenous students and preparing them for academic success. Spirit Lake helps teach math through word problems set in the context of stories based on the history and culture of the Dakota people.
New Indigenous Gamerpics, Profile Theme, and Avatar Items
In partnership with Indigenous communities at Xbox, we’re introducing a new gamerpic, profile theme, wallpaper, and avatar items! You’ll be able to dress your avatar or change your Xbox gamerpic bearing our specially-designed Xbox logo celebrating Indigenous Peoples starting today. The gamerpic and profile theme will be available on console, Xbox PC app, and the Xbox mobile app. Get your avatar items here. Content is subject to availability by country.
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