Partnerships for Indigenous Knowledge and Digital Literacies

An early play test of 'Analy outside the Aha Macav High School in Fort Mojave in Feb. 2014.

An early playtest of ‘Analy outside the Aha Macav High School in Fort Mojave in Feb. 2014.

Partnerships for Indigenous Knowledge and Digital Literacies
NSF Cyberlearning Grant
June 2013 – June 2015

John Reinhardt (PI)
Susan Penfield (PI)
Natalie Diaz
Kathy Castillo
Chris Holden

The next generation of indigenous people is faced with an awesome burden: how to sustain local ecologies, languages and lands in the face of rampant language, culture and policy shifts?


See more at the CERCLL (Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy) blog.

Training opportunities related to cyberlearning are few and far between for the indigenous population of this country. This project addresses areas of concern for both researchers and indigenous community members in a knowledge-sharing format and works towards a ‘train-the-trainers’ model of engagement for the project participants. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation’s “Cyberlearning: Transforming Education” program, and involves a partnership with the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI) and members of four southwest indigenous communities. Our central goal is to work with members from small communities as co-researchers investigating the viability of digital games, in this case using ARIS software, as a vehicle for learning both language and culture in a place-based approach. We hope to create a collaboration which opens channels for exploring how learning for content-based indigenous language pedagogy can be accomplished using digital game-based technology in support of indigenous community educational goals.

The indigenous community partners, who have been invited to share in this project as co-researchers and full participants in the discovery of new technological applications, have a common characteristic:  all of the languages of the invited communities are heritage members of the Yuman language family which includes fourteen separate tribes distributed roughly from northern Mexico up the Colorado River to the Kaibab Plateau. Historically, farming the rich lands along the river was a common subsistence pattern, but subsistence was also, and still is, heavily reliant on an understanding of local ecology.  This fact is significant in that each group is in a struggle to rejuvenate their languages which are so richly infused with both culture and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).

We plan to develop plans for projects involving augmented reality digital games, where the indigenous participants are the producers and can create pedagogical tools in ways consistent with their linguistic, cultural and educational needs. Planned projects resulting from the first symposium will continue to be supported and followed, building capacity for community engagement with both the academic team and with each other beyond the scope of this project.


Jon and Susan hosted a Symposium and workshop in November, 2013 for several indigenous community members—educators, youth, and organizers—to meet with a few scholars with experience in language learning and games. After meeting and sharing ideas, we ended up collaborating on a design for an augmented reality interactive story about ‘Analy, the Mesquite tree, and its cultural relevance. We planned to meet again and develop the design into a working prototype to continue conversations about games and language learning with more community members.

'Analy (mesquite tree) game plan from the Nov. 2013 symposium (click to enlarge).

‘Analy (mesquite tree) game plan from the Nov. 2013 symposium (click to enlarge).

In February, 2014, Jon, Susan, Natalie, Kathy, and Chris met in Fort Mojave for two days and made this design idea into a working prototype in ARIS. The game ‘Analy is playable anywhere, but set at the Aha Macav High School in Fort Mojave. It will be used to continue conversations and also tested by youth at the school. One of my favorite parts of the game is a short, beautiful lullaby Natalie recorded for it:

Thilykatawen – Natalie Diaz

In June 2014, Jon and Natalie presented on our progress at AILDI (American Indian Language Development Institute).

2 thoughts on “Partnerships for Indigenous Knowledge and Digital Literacies

  1. Pingback: Augmenting Reality With Sound | Local games lab ABQ

  2. Pingback: LGLABQ at UNM in Spring 2019 | Local games lab ABQ

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