A screenshot of the game StarScribe

Learning Hodinohsó:ní Language through Gaming

April 25, 2023

By Christopher Martin • Photos Courtesy of Christopher Martin

For years, there’s been a push to prepare high school students better for the STEAM-focused job market with more hands-on classes, access to technology, and the removal of financial barriers. Over in Brantford, Ontario, Six Nations Polytechnic (SNP) has pushed past the finish line. The SNP STEAM Academy is a unique program that offers students the chance to earn both high school and college diplomas in a STEAM field, all entirely tuition-free, while promoting Indigenous culture and language education.

SNP’s vision is to achieve international distinction for excellence in Indigenous education, Indigenous language revitalization, and the continuance of Indigenous knowledge. It is the mission of the SNP STEAM Academy to redesign education by braiding Indigenous knowledge with the Ontario Secondary School curriculum.

On December 1, 2022, the Grade 9 students attending SNP STEAM Academy’s Ęhsáhdo:k, “You Will Grow”program were given an incredible opportunity by the Pinnguaq Association, which offered them the opportunity to collaborate on the educational video game StarScribe, created by game designer Brandon Bunnie. Together, students created a version of the game that focuses on Hodinohsó:ní Star Knowledge, languages, and worldview. 

The project engaged students in video game design, and aligned perfectly with the academy’s vision and mission to promote Hodinohsó:ní languages and literacy. This iteration of StarScribe features SNP STEAM Academy students sharing the Gayogohono (Cayuga) and Kanienkeha (Mohawk) languages, reciting ancient stories, and using their creativity to develop digital art pieces.  

Students were trained on the graphics editing software Inkscape and Photopea to create digital works of art to accompany cultural knowledge of the Sun, the Moon, and the stars. Students also created images for Hodinohsó:ní stories such as the Creation story and the Great Bear (the Big Dipper constellation). Taylor Staats, a Grade 9 student, said: “I really enjoyed the art piece of the project. I love art and it allowed me to explore that.”

Another component of the project was to have students create voice recordings for the pronunciation of Gayogohono and Kanienkeha words that correspond with the prominent components of the Sky World. Students volunteered to make audio recordings of stories to accompany the digital art pieces inserted into the game. The Hodinohsó:ní languages were spoken and recorded by SNP STEAM Academy students Olivia Thomas, Dredon Bomberry, and Kayden George.

The preservation of Hodinohsó:ní knowledge is vital to the legacy of the Hodinohsó:ní Nations—the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora—across Turtle Island. Written and oral communication helps pave the way to cultural preservation for our youth through education and technology. Harvey Longboat Sr., a Six Nations educator, captured the importance of braiding Indigenous knowledge with Western education, saying: “Through the Hodinohso:ní /Rotinonhshonni worldview of our universe, we will assist in the survival of life on this planet through research, study of alternative views, and dissemination of information. Six Nations Polytechnic will endeavour to keep up with the beat of the 21st century and, at the same time, offer the understanding inherent in our language and culture.” 

This collaboration with Pinnguaq gave SNP STEAM Academy students the opportunity to shine through an authentic, hands-on, cross-curricular experience woven together with Hodinohsó:ní knowledge at the forefront of their learning. 

Nya:weh to Pinnguaq.

Nya:weh to the Six Nations Polytechnic STEAM Academy staff. 

Nya:weh to Deyohahá:ge: The Indigenous Knowledge Centre. 

This article originally appeared in the seventh issue of Root & STEM, Pinnguaq’s free print and online STEAM resource supporting educators in teaching digital skills

Christopher Martin

Christopher Martin

About the author

Chris Martin works at Six Nations Polytechnic STEAM Academy as its Indigenous Program Facilitator. In this role, Chris is dedicated to helping teachers decolonize education through braiding Indigenous Knowledge with the Ontario Secondary Curriculum, and initiates hands-on learning experiences for students.