Earlier this week, 2K Games introduced a new historical leader into its world conquest game Civilization 6. Cree leader Poundmaker (Pîhtokahanapiwiyin) joins the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Queen Victoria and Genghis Khan as characters whose actions players control as they seek global domination.
But one of today’s leaders of the Cree — a First Nations people who mainly live across Canada — says the portrayal is insensitive to their values.
Speaking to CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning, Milton Tootoosis, a Cree Nation headman (councillor or elder), said that the game “perpetuates this myth that First Nations had similar values that the colonial culture has, and that is one of conquering other peoples and accessing their land. That is totally not in concert with our traditional ways and world view.”
In Civilization 6, players are encouraged to expand their territory at the expense of “barbarians” and rival civilizations. Military conquest is one route to victory, although players can also win by more peaceful means, including cultural, scientific and religious victories. The PC game was recently released for iPad.
Poundmaker lived in the late 19th century, and sought to negotiate peaceful terms between the Canadian authorities and the Cree people, who were suffering from starvation due to over-hunting of their main food source, bison. Although eschewing violence, he was sentenced to jail for treason following an attempt to engage authorities in dialogue. He died from ill health soon after his release.
Tootoosis said he was disappointed that 2K Games had not approached any Cree representatives while developing their take on Poundmaker. “This is not new,” he added. “Hollywood has done a job for many decades of portraying indigenous people in a certain way that has been very harmful.”
We’ve asked 2K Games and Tootoosis for comment, and will update with any further information.