Tech & Media
17 Beautiful Indigenous Comic Books and Video Games For Kids
By Selena Mills, They Roar
Jan 9, 2018
If you know where to look, there has been a noticeable reclamation for Indigenous storytellers. Notably, it's visible through technology and modern forms of online gaming, comic books, animation and transmedia. And while content for “mature audiences” is definitely on the rise, I was still able to find plenty of action for kids! These Indigenous and FNMI (First Nations, Metis and Inuit) creators hail from across Turtle Island, and are aiming to eliminate negative stereotypes of Indigenous peoples as seen throughout pop culture.
As Kickapoo comic book illustrator Arigon Starr said in an interview with VICE, “We were either shamans, mystic boogeyman, or pocahotties.” But new generations of kids won’t grow up with these visions if collections like Starr's Super Indian Comics and my selections below are shown to children from all cultural backgrounds.
This is a singing game that teaches Anishinaabe songs about preserving and protecting our waters, in tandem with interactive challenges for users. Anishinaabemowin (phonetics) and English is displayed to guide players throughout each song, which were gifted by elders who collaborated at the singers of the Oshkii Giizhik Gathering and Sharon Day. Developed by Pinnguaq, with art and design by multidisciplinary trailblazer Elizabeth LaPensée. Available for free on iOS devices. Rated 4+
In this visually stunning 2D sidescroller, players can fly from the Tar Sands to the Great Lakes as a thunderbird protecting Turtle Island. Users have the power to strike with searing lightning against the “black snake” that threatens to swallow the lands and waters whole. Also designed by Elizabeth LaPensée and available on PC (via Dropbox), Google Play and iOS. Ratings vary depending on the platform you choose.
Spirits of Spring
Kids can role play solo or multiplayer, exploring four levels of a magical world filled with streams, trees and animals. Along the way, there are a series of puzzles and challenges to solve. Clear messages about the importance of friendship emerge throughout as gamers follow an Indigenous boy named Chiwatin and his friends Bear and Rabbit. Their world is threatened by bullying crows who destroy the spirit trees that preserve springtime. Users choose how to best address the crows and their bullying in this game rooted deeply in storytelling. Developed by Minority Media (Rezolution Pictures - Rumble, The Indians Who Rocked The World). Available on iOS for $1.99. Rated 9+
Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa - “I am Not Alone”)
This is the first game developed in collaboration with the Iñupiat, comprised of nearly 40 Alaska Native elders, storytellers and community contributors. In this atmospheric puzzle platformer, a young Iñupiat girl and an arctic fox set out to find the source of the eternal blizzard which threatens the survival of everything they have ever known. It's narrated by an Iñupiaq master storyteller, so players will hear a familiar voice as they guide both characters in single-player or co-operative mode. Available on multiple platforms from $4.49 to $22.49. Ratings vary depending on the platform you choose.
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In this simple yet challenging game, you are a dreamcatcher, tasked with the important job of ensuring the little girl under your care has a good night's sleep. Catch the bad dreams in your web to destroy them, while running into good dreams will give you bonus points. Available for free webplay! Unrated.
A spin on the classic arcade game Space Invaders, this version is designed and programmed by Elizabeth LaPensée, with art by Steven Paul Judd and music by Trevino Brings Plenty. Available free online, and for Android and iOS. Ratings vary depending on the platform you choose.
This is a social impact game where players explore philosophical themes of presence, and create art as a pathway to healing. All of this is accomplished by choosing from non-linear “quests” that are structured in the phases of the Indigenous life journey. Players create an act of survivance at the end of each quest — as a form of self-determination — inspired by Anishinaabe scholar Gerald Vizenor’s term “survivance.” Vizenor explains: "Survivance is an active sense of presence, the continuance of native stories, not a mere reaction, or a survivable name. Native survivance stories are renunciations of dominance, tragedy and victimry." Choose your free quest online. Unrated.
A soothing online space puzzler simple enough for young ones, with a beautiful soundtrack to match its exquisite physics and extraterrestrial experiences. Produced by Renee Nejo. Available for $9.99. Unrated.
This is a web-based, interactive storytelling game exploring Treaty 9, collaborated on by the Mushkegowuk and Anishinaabe Peoples of Northeastern and Northwestern Ontario. This Cree education game includes several guides for teachers to serve as a companion to the educational game play. In order to save your game, users must register and login to create, but other than that it’s free! For grades four to ten.
There are several choices under this umbrella that I couldn’t exclude because the experiences are so rich in education and creative exploration! Choose from making your own virtual wigwam in ‘Making Camp’; medicine hunting in ‘Spirit Lake’; and following in teachings of Ojibwe elders, there are walking trails and fishing expeditions in ‘Forgotten Trail’ and ‘Fish Lake.’ All games are available for webplay with teacher resources to accompany each game. Check out availability here — prices range from free to $12.83. Ratings vary depending on the platform and game you choose.
COMICS (DIGITAL + PRINT)
NAPI (Naw-Pea) is a trickster character shared for thousands of years by Blackfoot families to empower and educate others about the ways of the world. Each story has its own unique message with complementary lessons. Brand new NAPI stories launch every month, and be sure to join creator Jason Eaglespeaker’s mailing list to stay in the loop! Several reading levels available!
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After watching the stars falling to earth, a young man is whisked into the land of dream. He travels across distant, mythological places where he discovers the power of mapping the stars and how our dreams interlope with our everyday realities and pressures of life.
Readers can join Jonesy the Sheep and his enchanting adventures out on the rez as told and illustrated by Diné artist Jonathan Nelson. Exploration and dreaming about life after high school and beyond the rez are all a part of how Jonesy discovers himself.
The Hero Twins have long held an important place in the stories of the Navajo people of the southwest as protectors of the people, and their deeds and adventures have sparked the imaginations of Navajo children for generations. Readers go back in time to a harsh winter in 1860 where cavalry meets world-changing discoveries in the spirit realm. The character ‘Changing Woman’ rises as the matriarchal heroine who protects newborn and older children so they may fulfill their destiny of bringing light to the world. Written and illustrated by Dale Deforest.
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Three young Indigenous women have collaborated on this book in order to create a space to share and inspire different land and territory perspectives across FNMI communities. This includes a shared respect for the earth and an understanding of our responsibilities to protect it for future generations. Written by Shelby Angalik, Ariana Roundpoint and Lindsay DuPre. Illustrated by Halie Finney. Designed by Janet Hannah.
Originally a graphic novel written and illustrated by Jay Odjick, Kagagi has moved from the page to the screen with a 16-year-old Algonquin boy (Matthew Carver) as the superhero. He must stop his archnemesis The Windigo from destroying the world and gaining universal power. All episodes are free to stream online via APTN.
Developed by Pinnguaq, players can explore an immersive world of inspiration and wonder choosing from six original virtual reality stories, wherein users can creatively shape their dream world of the future. Available on Google Play, iOS and Oculus.
And if you’re a parent who loves comics and gaming, there is more mature content out there to enjoy. Start with volume one and two of Moonshot, collections of indigenous comics from across Turtle Island.