The Skins 4.0 video game workshop kicked off tonight at the Kahnawake Longhouse, where we welcomed three very special guests; Hiio Kirby, Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel and Towenhnitoken. Each shared with us a selection of tales (some factual, some fictional) which celebrated our venerable oral tradition as well as emphasized the importance of keeping said stories alive well into the future. The co-directors of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, Jason Lewis and Skawennati Fragnito, along with their team of research assistants, welcomed the participants, friends, family and community members to mingle and become inspired for the upcoming creative trials of the video game workshop.
After a social period of coffee, treats and conversation around a roaring fire, everyone was seated for the longhouse’s traditional opening, the O’henton Kariwahte:kwen, before the first storyteller, Hiio Kirby, took the floor. His stories ventured far from the typically traditional themes and instead focused on his time as an iron worker; one of the many Aboriginals that built the great American cities such as New York and Boston. These men were aptly nicknamed “Skywalkers” by colleagues, referring to their legendary fearlessness when balancing across high-beams, several stories in the air at a time when construction safety standards were incredibly lax. His nail-biting, real-life experiences left us audience members with the important lesson; that there is no shame in fear. Fear is what keeps us alive.
Our second storyteller was the renowned Ellen Gabriel. Speaking as both an artist and an activist (among her many other talents), she shared with us some of her experiences from behind the barricades during the 1990 Oka crisis. We were reminded of the many horrors and injustices inflicted upon this community, some of which have yet to be resolved decades and even centuries later. It was also heart-wrenchingly affirmed that there are other peoples and entire countries who suffer far worse breaches of human rights and that we should never stop striving for change and a better, fairer world.
The final speaker for the night was Towenhnitoken and he spoke firstly of his struggles against racism in his youth and how it helped him become a more skilled, confident and conscientious teacher to his students at Kahnawake Survival School. In conclusion, he reiterated an enchanting, animal myth written by he and his partner (details are omitted from this blog for privacy reasons) before ending the event with a closing.
All in all, the evening was a resounding success and everyone was hopefully inspired to come up with their own tales to transmediate into a video game.