In this section we highlight artists using digital technology to connect the past, present, and future from an Indigenous perspective. Both revisiting and re-imagining Indigenous representation by settler accounts, their artwork establishes new frameworks for understanding the past and re-visioning the future.  

Section Glossary

CapitalistA political and economic system where resources, trade, and industry are controlled by private owners to produce profit. In the past 500 years, this system has gradually grown to encompass more of society, made possible through colonization, the Atlantic slave trade, and modernized forms of labour and resource extraction.

Critique – To assess and provide a detailed analysis of something. Artists often engage in critiques as a group activity to further their work. 

Colonialist or Colonization – When one country or group of people tries to take control of another.

Digital Sovereignty – The idea that users should have control over their digital data and control its use and access.  

Discourse the large discussions being had by people across a specific field or on a specific topic. 

Hardware – Physical machinery used to run computer programs, systems, and code; the “body” to software’s “brain.” 

Historical Precedents – Situations, people, places and things from the past that provide ways for understanding relations today. 

Ideology – The set of norms and beliefs that inform the way one experiences their world and reality 

IndigenousThe original inhabitants of a land. In Canada, the term Indigenous peoples refers to those who are First Nations, Métis, or Inuit.

Indigenous Futurism An artistic movement that looks at how Indigenous culture intersects with technology, and imagines what Indigenous futures could be like. It is often closely related to the genres of science fiction and speculative fiction. The term was created by Anishinaabe author and professor Grace Dillon and is inspired by the term Afrofuturism. Artworks in this movement often imagine a past where European colonization of Indigenous lands did not take place. They consider how Indigenous culture might be more woven into modern and future mainstream cultures in this scenario. 

Representation – The depiction of someone or something, usually through media or the arts. 

Retro-Futurism A style that borrows from earlier art styles once considered modern and futuristic. One could think of it as looking backwards to help us look forwards. It examines the excitement and anticipation technologies created in the past, and how technology made people think about the future. These artworks often use modern technology to depict these earlier styles.  

SettlerSomeone who is residing in a land that is different from their land of origin. In settler colonialism, settlers are introduced with the intentions of controlling or eliminating the Indigenous population.

Software – Code used by a computer (“hardware”) to do things, like math, games, websites, communication, etc.


Maize Longboat: TerraNova

Maize Longboat’s Terra Nova is a two-player game that speculates on a first contact encounter between Indigenous and Settler peoples occurring thousands of years in the future. The project highlights the affordances of video games to convey messages through interactive storytelling. This video features a full playthrough of Terra Nova with live commentary from the artist. Live-streamed June 18, 2020.

Plugging in the IndigiNES with Dallas Flett-Wapash

Artist and game designer Dallas Flett-Wapash discusses his project IndigiNES as seen at the Art Gallery of Southern Manitoba’s !in.Site; digital exhibition. The IndigiNES is a collection of games inspired by Flett-Wapash’s own experiences of life on the reservation. Through 8-bit aesthetics, Flett-Wapash develops an Indigenous Retro-Futurism to speculate how Indigenous artists may have represented themselves in the early days of video game design if they’d had access. Live-streamed July 23, 2020.

Exploring the landscapes of Indigenous Futurism with Taylor McArthur

Artist Taylor McArthur gives a tour through her work as seen at the Art Gallery of Southern Manitoba’s !in.Site; digital exhibition. McArthur works across 3D modelling, animation, augmented reality, and game design to create immersive worlds informed by an Indigenous Futurist perspective. Live-streamed July 30, 2020.

Simon M. Benedict: Ender Gallery open studio

Minecraft artist-in-residence Simon M. Benedict invites the audience for an hour of conversation inside his evolving body of work. Benedict’s current project for Ender Gallery customizes the Minecraft platform to reflect a contemporary Abenaki experience. Referencing real world sites and traditions, Benedict’s projects reflect upon connection, community, and representation in the digital sphere. Live-streamed June 19, 2021.

Content advisory: This program addresses the residential school system, genocide, and death 

Simon M. Benedict: Odanak – at the Village

Odanak – at the Village is an installation and custom texture pack informed by Benedict’s ancestral community. Drawing from Kinaw8la – She Takes Care of You, an educational booklet co-authored by his sister Evelyne Benedict and Donna O’Bomsawin, Benedict’s exhibition remixes the default Minecraft environment to incorporate medicinal plants – both native and non-native – currently present on Odanak Abenaki territory. The exhibition features representations of both the natural and built environments of Odanak, reckoning with the ongoing colonial project as it pertains to the Abenaki people. In the wake of recent conversations regarding the Canadian residential school system, Benedict’s project addresses this history while creating virtual spaces for education and healing. Live-streamed July 10, 2021.

Content advisory: This program addresses the residential school system, genocide, and death 

Taylor McArthur: Line of Sight

In Line of Sight, the artist has created a gentle atmospheric environment for the audience to navigate. One of the works exhibited in the DAiR v1: Video Games by Artists exhibition, the project is situated in the contemporary genre of walking simulators which trade reward systems and fast-paced gameplay for contemplative immersion. Combining naturalism with neon shapes and geometric patterns, Taylor McArthur’s project is an immersive personal reflection on her identity, memory, and ties to the land.Live-streamed March 11, 2021.

Dallas Flett-Wapash: Crappy Home Designer

Part of DAiR v1: Video Games by Artists, Dallas Flett-Wapash’s Crappy Home Designer examines the popular Animal Crossing game series and the underlying ideologies of its mechanics. Flett-Wapash identifies how the Animal Crossing universe normalizes colonialist and capitalist ideologies of debt and control. These in-game privileges are further emphasized by their limited access through their real-world dependence on expensive proprietary hard- and software. n Crappy Home Designer, the artist offers a freeware interpretation of the game, whose game play is consistent with the lived realities of low-income families. Crappy Home Designer offers cheery graphics and engaging game play, while asking the player to consider who can afford virtual escapism. Live-streamed March 4, 2021.


Things to think about

  • How can you create artwork that connects to both the past and the future?
  • How has colonialism shaped how technologies develop, as well as our perspectives on technology?
  • What unique ideas and perspectives do you see Indigenous artists bringing to the landscape of digital art?

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