Janelle Pewapsconias loves to educate.
Pewapsconias hails from Saskatchewan’s Little Pine First Nation. With the creative mind power of her sister and discussions with her family, Pewapsconias founded Neeched Up Games.
“It was formed from this heartwarming moment in the very beginning,” Pewapsconias said. “It’s an interacting experience.”
There is a simple goal in mind — use an interactive board game to educate the game’s players on Indigenous culture.
Pewapsconias said it’s a fun and meaningful way to educate a player of any age who wants to engage and learn more.
“I’m coming from this at an educated, decolonizing perspective, using humour, health and Indigenous culture to help influence people,” Pewapsconias said.
What started in youth organizations soon spread to places of learning, such as elementary schools, high schools and universities.
The University of Saskatchewan‘s director of social accountability in the College of Medicine, Manuela Valle-Castro, said in this day and age, there needs to continue to be the opportunity for any culture or people to be included in society “in order to make meaningful contributions to culture.”
“In order to be represented in culture, they need to access to participate in society as a whole,” Valle-Castro said.
One expert said it’s crucial for artists to express themselves in this manner and for more to come to the forefront as well in the future in order to ensure an avenue for future artists of Indigenous backgrounds.
“To make stories and to bring people that are creating and envisioning these artistic forms because we need art and culture to survive, to enable us to move forward,” Valle-Castro said.
The learning-through-doing project is a giant role-playing board game featuring cards and big dice. With each turn, players are said to be immersed in Indigenous culture, including Indigenous language, geography and labels, to name a few.
Pewapsconias said nobody loses in the game and the ultimate goal is seeing youth take back their identities.
“To me, that is what is most important, without saying words, that is the biggest compliment, seeing youth feel empowered when they leave the space at the end of the day,” Pewapsconias told Global News.
Pewapsconias and Valle-Castro feel more Indigenous, learning-based content is needed through the prairies and in Saskatchewan.
“It’s so important to the betterment of creating inclusion for Indigenous people,” Valle-Castro said.
Pewapsconias said she is hoping to further extend the reach of Neeched Up Games to a greater audience by developing more in an online format or virtual reality in the future.