Canada’s Plains Cree and Chief Poundmaker have been included in the newest edition of a popular video game series, but one elected official from the Saskatchewan First Nation considers it cultural appropriation.
A trailer for Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Rise and Fall, shows the Cree people under Chief Poundmaker as a nation in the game where players compete to develop land, research new technologies, establish trade routes and fight against other players.
“(Poundmaker) ruled his people during a tumultuous time in Cree history, judiciously toeing the line between aggression and diplomacy,” the trailer states.
“Today he is remembered for his work to secure peace between the Cree and the Canadian government.”
The game also includes an illustrated biography of the chief, who is depicted smiling with a herd of bison in the background.
Earlier versions of Civilization have been popular around the world, with more than 162,000 people playing online simultaneously at the game’s peak popularity.
The new version featuring Chief Poundmaker is to be released next month.
Milton Tootoosis, an elected headman-councillor with the Poundmaker Cree Nation, said he is concerned about how a company unaffiliated with their community will profit from their stories and iconic figures.
“We are challenging any individuals or groups that have taken into their possession artifacts – or stories in this case – for commercial purposes and for profit without consulting our community,” Tootoosis said.
Take-Two Interactive Software, the game’s publisher, did not respond to requests for comment.
Tootoosis said the game’s developers likely had positive intentions, but they should have sat down with the Cree nation’s elders and cultural advisers before including Poundmaker.
He said the First Nation northwest of Saskatoon will likely send a letter to the developers requesting better consultation and possible modifications.
Tootoosis said the inclusion of Poundmaker is an example of cultural appropriation, but he acknowledged the depiction of the chief shown in the game’s trailer is largely positive.
“I was quite impressed that they would make reference to Chief Poundmaker as a diplomat and as an individual who played a key role in the development of this new nation called Canada,” he said.
Tootoosis also said the game will likely create widespread interest in Poundmaker, which could lead to better public awareness of the Plains Cree.
Although the game’s depiction of Poundmaker shows him as much younger than the actual chief, Tootoosis said he hopes players take the time to educate themselves on the real history.
The Poundmaker Cree First Nation’s website includes a detailed history of the chief, whose Cree name is Pitikwahanapiwiyin.
It notes he emerged as a political leader during the tumultuous years surrounding the extension of the treaty system and the influx of settlers into present-day Saskatchewan, including the 1885 Riel Rebellion.
The chief was convicted of treason and served one year in prison before being released because of poor health. A few months later he died.