By Taylor MacPherson
Canada’s Plains Cree and Chief Poundmaker have been included in the newest edition of the popular Civilization video game series, but one elected official from the Poundmaker Cree Nation is calling it cultural appropriation.
The series allows players to take on the role of a national leader, as they compete in a turn-based game to develop land, research new technologies, establish trade routes and fight against other players. The game is already incredibly popular around the world, with more than 162,000 people playing online simultaneously at the game’s peak popularity. A Jan. 2 trailer for Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Rise and Fall – an expansion pack for the original game – announced the inclusion of the Cree people under Chief Poundmaker as a playable nation.
“[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.”
At the Poundmaker Cree Nation, however, the use of their founding chief is not going over well.
Elected Headman Milton Tootoosis told paNOW the depiction may raise Poundmaker’s profile significantly around the world, but said it is still an example of cultural appropriation – a company unaffiliated with the Cree nation profiting 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.
“They haven’t consulted our own community, which is something we likely need to take them to task for,” he added.
Tootoosis said the game’s developers likely had positive intentions but noted they should have sat down with the Cree nation’s Elders and cultural advisors before including Poundmaker in the game. Tootoosis said he plans to discuss the matter with the band’s elders before proceeding, but said the Cree Nation will likely send a letter to the developers of the game requesting better consultation and possible modifications to their depiction.
Although Tootoosis said the inclusion of Poundmaker in the game is an example of for-profit cultural appropriation, he said the depiction of the chief shown in the game’s trailer was 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 said the game will likely have some positive effects, despite its appropriation of Cree history. The popularity of the series will likely create widespread interest in Poundmaker, he said, which may lead to better public awareness of the Plains Cree. Although the game’s portrayal of Poundmaker shows him as much younger and better-nourished than the actual chief, Tootoosis said he hopes players take the time to educate themselves on the real history.
Requests for comment from publisher and developer Take-Two Interactive were not returned.
Civilization VI: Rise and Fall is scheduled for worldwide release Feb. 8.