Sunday, May 14, 2017

Never Alone

by Edward Hessler

So what do you do when you see your culture disappearing in front of your eyes? Talk about and notice it or try something more active to see whether it works?

The Inupiat people, native to what is now known as Alaska never had a written language until quite recently.  Their culture was passed down orally, generation to generation to generation.

An Inupiat family, 1929 [Wikimedia]

Young Inupiat have drifted from an oral tradition, attracted by the modern world and its demands, e.g., school. As you will learn in the video linked below, transition from a traditional way of life to a modern way of life has also become a profound challenge.

Some members of the tribe made a decision to try an experiment in a different way of transmitting their culture through the development of a video game.  They worked with a New York game development company, E-Line. The game, Never Alone is based on an old Inupiat tale ("Kunuuksaayuka"). In this story a child, Nuna and her pet arctic fox embark on a challenging wilderness trek, encountering obstacles to solve, in search of the source of the fierce winters their village has endured.

The E-Line developers traveled to Alaska in January when it is both cold and dark, a test of their commitment to the project. This short video from the New Yorker tells the story of the development of this beautifully produced game. One of the demands of the project was that this be a community-based and collaborative development project. And it was

The video is based on a story about this project by Simon Parker (November 2014) which you can read via a link in the description that accompanies the video.

For more information about the Inupiat, the National Park Service's Inupiat Heritage Center was designed to tell their story. In addition, an article in Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine describes Inupiat subsistence hunting activities.

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