Scott Benesiinaabandan, Blueberry Pie Under the Martian Sky, 2017. Virtual Reality/Digital Media Screenshot



Consider the different ways the future can be plural in Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace’s (AbTeC) activities and output, for example:

  • The possibilities that emerge from Indigenous-determined investment in and exploration of new media.
  • The intergenerational connections through the engagement of Indigenous youth and elders.
  • The continuance and transmission of traditional knowledge and systems.
  • Countering the colonial myth of Indigenous peoples as fixed in the past by refusing a Western standpoint on futurity, its model of time moving in a straight line, and its ideological narrative of progress.

Storytelling, play, and immersion

This exhibition offers the visitor numerous opportunities for play, gaming and immersion. The games resulting from the Skins Workshops, virtual reality works, movies shot in Second Life, and interactive poems each combine elements of narrative, play and choice. With this in mind think about:

  • The ways games work as a storytelling medium.
  • The act of simultaneously listening to and playing a story. How you hear the story and how you script your play.
  • How AbTeC Island on Second Life is at once a repository for past machinima sets and the stage for new collaborative fictions.
  • The interplay of storytelling, tradition and collaboration beyond the interface. In the case of the Skins workshops: the skills acquired or refined through collaborative work, the advisory of Indigenous mentors, storytellers and elders, and the different contexts where the games can be played.


Throughout AbTeC’s activities the question is less a matter of reformatting or adapting Indigenous stories and practices to digital and networked technologies as it is exploring and strengthening the compatibilities between the two as today’s networked technologies begin to catch up to systems long in use by Indigenous peoples. For example:

  • How traditional stories are relayed through and rely on a knowledge storage and retrieval system founded on interconnection and transmission.
  • The multiple ways that histories, traditions, and laws are encoded, accessed, and read through patterns, symbols, music, song, ceremony, performance and dance.
  • How the shared act of claiming Indigenous presence, space, and sovereignty on-line contributes to a decentring of the internet, bringing into question the normative assumptions regarding who qualifies to contribute to and be represented online.


2Bears, Jackson. “A Conversation with Spirits Inside the Simulation of a Coast Salish Longhouse.” Code Drift: Essays in Critical Digital Studies, April 29, 2010. <http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=640>

Clifford, James. Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Cornum, Lou Catherine. “The Space NDN’s Star Map.” The New Inquiry, January 26, 2016. <https://thenewinquiry.com/the-space-ndns-star-map/>

de la Garza, Armida. “Aboriginal Digitalities: Indigenous Peoples and New Media.” In The Digital Arts and Humanities: Neogeography, Social Media and Big Data Integrations and Applications, 49-62, edited by Charles Travis and Alexander von Lünen. Cham: Springer, 2016.

Deloria, Vine, Jr. Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact. Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 1997.

Dillon, Grace L. Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012.

Guillermo Gómez-Peña, “THE VIRTUAL BARRIO @ THE OTHER FRONTIER (or the Chicano interneta).” Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 1998. <http://archiv.hkw.de/forum/forum1/doc/text/e-gompen.html>

Haas, Angela M. “Wampum as Hypertext: An American Indian Intellectual Tradition of Multimedia Theory and Practice.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 19, no. 4 (Winter 2007): 77-100.

Landzelius, Kyra. Native on the Net. Indigenous and Diasporic Peoples in the Virtual Age. London: New York: Routledge. 2006.

Larin, Eli. “Effacement des limites entre identités réelles et virtuelles et entre notre existence en ligne et hors ligne.” Revue Ex_Situ, June 7 2016. <https://revueexsitu.com/2016/06/07/effacement-des-limites-entre-identites-reelles-et-virtuelles-et-entre-notre-existence-en-ligne-et-hors-ligne/>

Lewis, Jason E. “A Brief (Media) History of the Indigenous Future.” PUBLIC: Art|Culture|Ideas 27, no. 54 (December 2016): 36-50.

Lewis, Jason E. and Skawennati Tricia Fragnito. “Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace.” Cultural Survival Quarterly 29, no. 2 (Summer 2005): 30.

Lewis, Jason E. and Skawennati. “l’Avenir autochtone, c’est aussi le vôtre.” La Presse, April 3 2016.

Loft, Steven and Kerry Swanson. Coded Territories: Tracing Indigenous Pathways in Media Art. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2014.

Mukherjee, Souvik. Video Games and Storytelling: Reading Games and Playing Books. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Nakamura, Lisa. “Indigenous Circuits: Navajo Women and the Racialization of Early Electronic Manufacture.” American Quarterly, 66, no. 4 (December 2014): 919-941.

Nixon, Lindsay. “Visual Cultures of Indigenous Futurisms.” GUTS, May 20, 2016. <http://gutsmagazine.ca/visual-cultures/>

Pearce, Celia and Artemesia. Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.

Pechawis, Archer. “Not So Much a Land Claim.” CyberPowWow 2K, 2001. <http://cyberpowwow.net/archerweb/index.html>

Ramirez, Renya. Native Hubs: Culture, Community, and Belonging in Silicon Valley and Beyond. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.

Rickard, Jolene. “First Nation Territory in Cyber Space Declared: No Treaties Needed.” CyberPowWow, 1999. <http://cyberpowwow.net/nation2nation/jolenework.html>

Sandvig, Christian. “Connection at Ewiiaapaayp Mountain: Indigenous Internet Infrastructure.” In Race After the Internet, edited by Lisa Nakamura and Peter Chow-White, 168-200. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Snipp, Matthew C. “What Does Data Sovereignty Imply: What Does it Look Like?” In Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Towards an Agenda. Edited by Tahu Kukutai and John Taylor, 39-55. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2016.

Todd, Loretta. “Aboriginal Narratives in Cyberspace.” In Immersed in Technology: Art and Virtual Environments, edited by Mary Anne Moser with Douglas MacLeod. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996.

Townsend, Melanie A., Dana Claxton, and Steve Loft, eds. Transference, Tradition, Technology: Native New Media Exploring Visual & Digital Culture. Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery Editions, 2005.



Produced with the support of the Frederick and Mary Kay Lowy Art Education Fund

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace is a network of academics, artists and technologists whose goal is to define and share conceptual and practical tools that encourage new, Aboriginally-determined territories within the web-pages, online games and virtual environments that we call cyberspace.

The Initiative for Indigenous Futures is a collaboration between universities, arts institutions, community organizations and industry partners dedicated to developing multiple visions of Indigenous peoples tomorrow in order to better understand where we need to go today.


Skawennati makes art that addresses history, the future and change from an Indigenous perspective. She produces machinimas—movies made in virtual environments—still images, sculpture and textile works.

Her pioneering new media projects have been presented in New Zealand, Hawaii, Ireland and across North America in major exhibitions such as “Now? Now!” at the Biennale of the Americas, and “Looking Forward (L’Avenir)” at the Montreal Biennale. Her award-winning work in is included in both public and private collections.

Born in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory, Skawennati holds a BFA from Concordia University, and lives in Montreal.

Jason Edward Lewis

Jason Edward Lewis is a digital media poet, artist and software designer. He founded Obx Laboratory for Experimental Media, where he leads research/creation projects exploring computation as a creative and cultural material. He is a Trudeau Fellow, and University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary as well as Professor of Computation Arts at Concordia University, Montreal. Before joining academia, Lewis spent a decade in Silicon Valley exploring early digital and networked media at industrial research labs and design firms. Lewis is Cherokee, Hawaiian and Samoan, and was born and raised in northern California.


Twenty Years of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, by Mikhel Proulx

Somehow when you exit this site you definitely know you were in Indian territory.
Jolene Rickard1

Writing in 1999 about CyberPowWow 2—one of the first ‘Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace’—the Tuscarora art historian Jolene Rickard identified a remarkable affordance of the Internet: community-determined use of networked media really could migrate Indigenous ways of relating into the digital age.

This was months before Jason Edward Lewis and Skawennati met, years before they married, and far before they established Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC)—the acclaimed, international network supporting media arts. AbTeC was formalized in 2005 with the mandate to support and increase the number of Indigenous peoples creating digital media. For Lewis and Skawennati, and for their myriad collaborators, this was an effort to ensure that the future would hold spaces for Indigenous voices. This initial ambition has flowered through two decades of cultural work that advances long-term futures of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.


  1. Jolene Rickard, “First Nation Territory in Cyber Space Declared: No Treaties Needed,” CyberPowWow, 1999, http://cyberpowwow.net/nation2nation/jolenework.html.

Mikhel Proulx researches contemporary art and digital cultures. He is a PhD student and faculty member in the department of Art History at Concordia University, Montreal. Mikhel’s research considers Queer and Indigenous artists working with networked media, and he has curated exhibitions across Canada, Europe, and the Middle East.

The complete essay can be viewed on the exhibition’s page and downloaded in the Texts and Documents section. A printed version is also available at the Gallery.


Jason Edward Lewis and Skawennati

Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Technological World, 2002
Adobe Flash, 3 min. 50 sec.

Commissioned by Horizon Zero and originally presented online by Urban Shaman Gallery, Winnipeg
Courtesy of the artists

Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Technological World extends the traditional Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen (Iroquois thanksgiving address) to express gratitude for a few of the modern amenities of our 21st-century lives.

Jason Edward Lewis

Poetry for Excitable [Mobile] Media, 2007-2014
iPads, Objective – C application for iOS

Courtesy of the artist
Apps can be downloaded to your iPhone or iPad at poemm.net

P.o.E.M.M. is a series of texts written and designed to be read across a number of media and surfaces, from large scale projections to mobile screens. To read a P.o.E.M.M., readers manipulate its words and phrases with touch gestures. The texts speak about making sense of crazy talk and kid talk, the meanings of different shades of purple, the conundrums of being a Cherokee boy adopted by a white family and raised in northern California mountain country and the importance of calling a sundae a sundae. The works explore different strategies for both writing and reading using multi-touch and mobile devices, and how those strategies substantially expand the range of digital literature, visual art and performance available to us. Each work in the series includes a large-scale interactive version for exhibition, a mobile interactive version for tablets and for smartphones and one or more large-scale prints. The mobile versions are also used in augmented performances.

The P.o.E.M.M. series was produced in collaboration with Bruno Nadeau and with production assistance from Charles-Antoine Dupont, Chris Drogaris, Christian Gratton, Clem Lui, David Mongeau-Petitpas, Elie Zananiri, Eric Gagnon, Frédéric Bouin, Ian Arajwo, Julia Wolfe, Max Young, Sam Cousin, Serge Maheu and Tristan Kurtz. Paul Dolden created the music.

P.o.E.M.M. received the Inaugural Robert Coover Award for Best Work of Electronic Literature from the Electronic Literature Organization in 2014. The first P.o.E.M.M., What They Speak When They Speak to Me, received an imagineNATIVE Honorable Mention in the Best New Media Category in 2009.

What They Speak When They Speak to Me
, 2010

Artist’s Statement
What They Speak When They Speak to Me is an interactive poem about mistaken identity and the confusion—amusing and alarming—that happens when people believe you are somebody you are not.

Buzz Aldrin Doesn’t Know Any Better
, 2011

Artist’s Statement
Buzz Aldrin Doesn’t Know Any Better is a conversation with an old interlocutor, Pretty Jesus, about the contents of a pawnshop street-side display window in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.

The Great Migration
, 2011

Artist’s Statement
The Great Migration is a poem about leaving, about the excitement of heading out into a great unknown. It is also a poem about expulsion, about diaspora, about being forced to from home, in some sense about my emigration to Canada. Yet it is also a poem about surrendering to the excitement and the compulsion, about the reluctant realization that perhaps fundamental change is needed to keep on living.

Smooth Second Bastard
, 2011

Artist’s Statement
Smooth Second Bastard is a meditation on the difference between being asked “where ya from” and being asked “are you from around here?” Growing up where and how I did, I tend to see insider-outsider dynamics before I see prejudice. Such a viewpoint can be gracious and expansive or naïve and dangerous, and I sometimes find it difficult to tell which.

The Summer the Rattlesnakes Came
, 2013

Artist’s Statement
Summer at six, at nineteen, and at twenty-six. At six, suddenly moved waaaaay out in the sticks, the whole family sleeping in tents, and, when the summer came, realizing that our camp was directly in the path that the local rattlesnakes took to get to the creek. At nineteen, coming home for a summer after living in Berlin for two years, transformed…and not. At twenty-six, coming home for a summer after living in London for two years; dazed, confused. All the later summers seem somehow—through scent and heat and sounds—to spiral back to that first summer, wondering when the snakes would come again.

The World Was White
, 2013

Artist’s Statement
Three friends. A silent winter day. A long drive together, in the midst of going our separate ways. Trying to figure it all out, before memory crushes us and the snow buries our tracks. The World Was White is a homage to the many, many road trips—short and long—I took across northern California with friends while a teenager. Now, much later, I have come to realize that it is also about growing up as one of the few brown kids in white, rural mountain country.

The World that Surrounds You Wants Your Death
, 2013

“[W]hen you’ve gone through five hundred years of genocidal experiences, when you know that the other world that surrounds you wants your death and that’s all it wants, you get bitter. And you don’t get over it. It starts getting passed on almost genetically. It makes for wit, for incredible wit. But under the wit there is a bite.”
— Paula Gunn Allen

Artist’s Statement
The World That Surrounds You Wants Your Death takes its cue from Allen’s observation of what it means for a culture to live, generation after generation, in an environment that actively strives for that culture’s demise. Now that I have small children, I find myself increasingly called upon to explain to them why it might be an issue that they are Cherokee and Mohawk (but not that they are also Italian), or that they are brown, and that they live in a place (Quebec) that can be culturally and legislatively hostile to those others who are not Francophone, and within a larger North American context that only sees “The Indian Problem.”

No Choice About the Terminology, 2011
Touch screen, Java application for Mac and Windows OS

Commissioned for the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Festival
Courtesy of the artist

No Choice About the Terminology explores the rigid categories imposed through racial and cultural taxonomies and hierarchies. The phrase ‘you’ve got no choice about the terminology’ comes from an old-school ice cream parlour manager who insisted that things be called by their proper names, e.g., “A scoop of ice-cream with topping on it is a sundae.” Lewis comes from a household in which ice-cream was taken very seriously indeed, and struggled with what terminology to use to describe his ethnicity (Cherokee, Hawaiian, Samoan, raised in northern California rural mountain redneck culture), and, later, profession (artist? poet? software developer? educator? designer?). Recognizing both the danger and seduction of neat categorizations, the line inspired an interactive text that plays with categories, definitions and the idea that, though we might have some choice about our terminology, we have no choice about our ontology.

No Choice About the Terminology was the first interactive artwork commissioned by the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, as part of Lewis’ 2011 exhibition Vital to the General Public Welfare – imagineNATIVE’s first solo exhibition for interactive art.


Imagining Indians in the 25th century, 2001
Website on iPad: skawennati.com/imaginingindians

Courtesy of the artist

Though technically not an official AbTeC project (as it was made before the research network existed), Imagining Indians is the first piece in which Skawennati consciously set out to visualize the future. It is the precursor to TimeTraveller™, as it imagines a character who visits personnages and moments of significance to Indigenous history. Much of the research carried out for TimeTraveller™ began with this project, including the work on Tenochtitlan, Kateri Tekakwita, Alcatraz, and the interplanetary powwow.

Machinimas by Skawennati

The word ‘machinima’ is a mash-up of the terms ‘machine’ and ‘cinema’ and is used to describe the emerging technique of shooting a movie in a virtual environment, like a video game. The environment AbTeC has used since 2007 is Second Life, a massively multi-player, customizable, online world.

She Falls For Ages
, 2017
20 min.

Courtesy of the artist

She Falls For Ages is a sci-fi retelling of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) creation story. It begins on an ancient, alien world whose culture centres on the care and reverence for the beautiful, energy-producing Celestial Tree. The central figure of the tale, Otsitsakáion, has a special power: she can read people’s thoughts. When she learns that her world is dying, Otsitsakáion knows what must be done; she must become the seed of the new world. Using the new media technique known as machinima, She Falls For Ages boldly mixes Haudenosaunee storytelling with science fiction to connect the deep past and the far future.

, 2008-2013
75 min.

TimeTraveller™ is a nine-part machinima that tells the story of Hunter, an angry young Mohawk man living in the 22nd century. Despite his impressive range of traditional skills, Hunter is unable to find his way in an overcrowded, hyperconsumerist, technologized world. He decides to use his edutainment system, his TimeTraveller™, to learn about his heritage. Through a bizarre glitch in the system, he meets Karahkwenhawi, a young Mohawk woman from our present. Together they criss-cross time and end up discovering the complexity of history, truth and love.

Episode 01 Fort Calgary, 1867
5 min. 59 sec.

Episode 02 Minnesota Massacre, 1862
8 min. 38 sec.

Episode 03 Oka Crisis, Kanehsatà:ke, 1990
9 min. 09 sec.

Episode 04 Pow Wow Winnipeg, 2112
8 min. 52 sec.

Episode 05 Kateri Tekakwitha, 1680
10 min. 59 sec.

Episode 06 Alcatraz Island, 1969
11 min. 02 sec.

Episode 07 Tenōchtitlan, 1490
12 min. 5 sec.

Episode 08 Interlude
3 min. 37 sec.

Episode 09 Montreal, 2121
9 min. 07 sec.

Courtesy of the artist

Skawennati received the 2009 Best New Media award from imagineNATIVE Festival for the TimeTraveller™ website.

Illustrating the Future Imaginary

Illustrating the Future Imaginary, 2015-2017
Projected digital prints

Courtesy of the artists

Illustrating the Future Imaginary is an ongoing commissioning project of the Initiative for Indigenous Futures. It invites Indigenous artists to imagine their communities seven generations in the future. Artists are encouraged to think in terms of science fiction, and they can work in any medium. The finished artworks are then transformed into digital prints and postcards, which in this presentation are projected.


ᑲᓇᕒᐲᐅᐣ/Connor Pion/piihkonikewin (mixed non-status urban cree/ Atikamekw /métis/settler living in Tkaronto/Dish with One Spoon Treaty Territory)
ᐋᐣᒋᓈᑯᐑᐦᐃᑎᓱ/aandjinaagowiihidizo/s/t/h/e/y transfigure themselves, 2017
Digital collage

Artist’s Statement
we are stars and nebulae between grandmother moon and grandfather sun. our spirits stretching from our traditional territories to these cities. they stretch and reach and braid the space-time continua. they vogue, sashay, jingle and grass dance to transcend settler colonial violence. we are the spectrums that bind two halves and we are essential. our presence and powers complete ceremonial circles. not of one nor the other but both and all. we are in the centre, in between, mixed/abitoose. our rightful place is in the centre, third and fourth genders and beyond – infinite/asakamik. we are earthseeds and our destiny is to one day return to and take root in starworld/giizhigong.


Heather Campbell (Nunatsiavut Inuit)
7th Generation Inuit Community, 2015
Original: watercolour on paper

Artist’s Statement
This painting depicts Inuit communities seven generations from now. If, two or three generations from now, humanity hasn’t destroyed our planet and themselves, it will be because we’ve embraced clean energy. The painting shows windmills which power the community, plus a communal greenhouse to grow food. The domed-shaped homes have solar panels on the top, are built to withstand extreme weather, and provide protection from the damaging effects of the sun, which has become more dangerous due to the near depletion of the ozone layer. The homes have their own water supply as well and the dome of the home continues underground to create an orb. People will be forced to spend a lot of their time underground and everything is connected by tunnels. We are all living in the hills now because the polar ice caps have melted, raising the sea level. The earth has become warmer, resulting in the growth of trees further north. But the environment is slowly recovering from what past generations have done to it.


Steve Sanderson (Plains Cree)
Picking Up Where We Left Off, 2015

Artist’s Statement
I envisioned a post-apocalyptic world where the Plains people returned to our old ways and were once again masters of our own destinies. Depicting one of his descendants reclaiming the Plains and using a mixture of the old ways and the new to chart their path in a post-apocalyptic world.


Kaleikulaakeliiokalani Makua (Native Hawaiian)
Ua Hoʻi Mai, 2017

Artist’s Statement
The title of this piece translates as ʻReturned’. The prompt for the creation of this piece is imagining how my ancestors will live many generations in the future. I am hopeful that the Hawaiian culture will continue to revitalize and exist in the contemporary world.


Elizabeth LaPensée (Anishinabe)
Returning to Ourselves, 2016

Artist’s Statement
Returning to Ourselves reflects our cyborg selves of the future in a spacetime when we activate interstellar travel by recognizing the depth of teachings from the past. Blood memory echoes as thought initiates form and the triangulation of breath ignites the connections of planetary traplines.


Joseph Erb (Cherokee)
Turtle Our Teacher (Turtle Translation App), 2015

Artist’s Statement
The Turtle Translation App is about learning the old stories and ways with better communication. The idea is that future technology brings us back to who we are.


Moanaroa Te Whata (Maori of Ngapuhi and Ngati Porou tribes)
Ambassador of Aotearoa, 2017

Artist’s Statement
I think in seven generations from now we (humans) will be doing pretty well. After a few more wars, things like corporate greed, war, and prejudice will be seen as a distant lesson on what not to do. Eventually things will be all good here and there will be a perfect balance between the old world and the new. Aliens will finally decide it is safe enough to drop their invisibility shield and come hang out. My descendants will act as ambassadors to these beings and will welcome them with open arms, food and dance. Overall I’m hoping for a positive future for my descendants where they will still have their culture, be happy and the world won’t turn to custard. I was thinking of the archway (whareroa) in downtown Auckland that leads into Aotea Square. Aotea Square is a public space that holds open concerts, markets, festivals and political rallies. I felt that it would be a good place to reimagine. The cityscapes in this picture show the development to come in the future. So seeing as it’s not on a marae, it’s not a traditional welcoming. It’s basically a welcoming through the gateway into the city to meet the people.


Darian Jacobs (Mohawk)
Soaring High, 2015

Artist’s Statement
Attempting to illustrate the far future was a big challenge as I tend to not think further ahead than next week. I realized I was trying to show a dark and pessimistic world that I wouldn’t want to live in. Once I let myself let go of those ideas and paint what I wanted, I found that my future would be bright and colourful. People living high in the sky and using technology that might be powered by solar and wind power, or maybe some kind of magic. Sometimes people forget to hope, and assume everything will go wrong, but we don’t know how the world will change. Why not imagine a happy place?


Jeffrey Veregge (Port Gamble S’Klallam)
Bold Steps, 2015

Artist’s Statement
The first Indian in deep space…


Nā ‘Anae Mahiki collective (Briana Makanamaikalani Wright (Kanaka Māoli), Chad Brown (Kanaka Māoli), and Jasmine Elidas)
Māhoe, 2017
Still from He Ao Aou

Collective’s Statement
Lehua and her twin brother are Hawaiians living in space. The twins (māhoe) have been raised by their grandfather (tūtū), and have been taught the old Hawaiian ways. Storytelling (mo’olelo), paddling canoe (hoe wa’a), and surfing (he’enalu) in space are the favorite pastimes of the twins. Lehua and her brother have always been close and they love to play games and compete with each other.


Teyowisonte Tommy Deer (Mohawk)
Kahnawá:ke (Perseverance), 2015

Artist’s Statement
I thought about what the future of our community would be in terms of likelihood and in terms of how I hope it would age. The illustration is intended to be an aspiration portrayal of our future. The illustration shows the dominant colonial world growing around us, amidst the contrast of the foreground depicting a Haudenosaunee Longhouse, which is holding colonialism at bay. The Longhouse symbolizes our enduring culture and nationality and the smoke symbolizes that it continues to exist and live. The rows of purple wampum on top and on the bottom of the illustration reflects the Two Row Wampum, which represents the desired relationship of coexistence and non-interference between our peoples. The top row is falling apart, which symbolizes the colonial failure to respect this relationship.


Ray Caplin (Mi’kmaq)
Hunter of Altered Game, 2016

Artist’s Statement
Sixteen generations into the future, when massive corporations and industry have long since coated the planet with towering cities and factories, all of earth’s industrial resources have been depleted and the cities have been left abandoned to crumble. The density of the cities has made it difficult for nature to reclaim the earth. Toxic chemicals and radiation soak the soil, drastically mutating most life that dwells there. In the midst of the ruins, a lone hunter preys upon the altered game. Knowledge passed down from generations has shaped him into a formidable hunter. Adapting modern tools such as his power spear, combined with the teachings from his ancestors, allow the Mi’kmaq hunter to survive in this rugged forest of steel skeletons with poisoned skies.


Kaia’tanoron Bush (Mohawk)
Use It, 2015

Artist’s Statement
I am a violin teacher in Kahnawake with the Viva! Sistema program. It focuses on providing a social stability for children who may come from less fortunate families or who are unable to afford music lessons. The girls in the drawing are some of my students. The drawing was inspired by these students and David Bowie’s “Starman” hence the title, Use It. I was also thinking about the role social media and personal devices will play in young people’s lives and how this might change their futures and of course, , the importance of preserving our traditions and practices. Initially my outlook on the future of Indigenous people was bleak. We spend everyday fighting for tomorrow, it was difficult for me to imagine something beyond fifty years but doing this work made me realize that we can build a kind future for our children.

Skins Workshops on Aboriginal storytelling and digital media design, 2008–2017

Skins is a series of workshops for Indigenous youth offered by an Aboriginally-determined team of designers, artists, technologists, and educators. The workshops combine cultural exchange centered on storytelling with creative mentoring and technical training in digital media production. The goal is to empower Indigenous youth to be culturally-grounded producers—not just consumers—of digital media.

The Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design are three-week long intensives whose unique curriculum begins with storytelling from the community. The participants then design and build a game around a story of their choosing while learning the skills necessary for producing it: sound, level and character design; art direction; 3D modeling and animation; and programming.

The Skins Workshops are taught by faculty, students and graduates of Concordia University, primarily from the Design and Computation Arts department. They are joined by Indigenous mentors, storytellers and elders who lend their expertise as cultural consultants and mentor the participants. AbTeC has run five Skins videogame workshops since 2008. The first four were in collaboration with the Kahnawake Survival School and Kahnawake Education Centre, and the fifth with Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu.

The games made in Skins 1.0 and Skins 3.0 were awarded Best New Media at imagineNATIVE Film + Media in 2010 and 2013, respectively. Additionally, the Skins Workshop series was awarded a 2012 McConnell Foundation Ashoka Changemakers Award.

Videos games created in the framework of Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design

Otsì:! Rise of the Kanien’kehá:ka Legends, 2009
Created by the Skins 1.0 Collective
Skins 1.0: Kahnawake Survival School
Kahnawake First Nation

Otsì:! Rise of the Kanien’kehá:ka Legends is a videogame developed in the first Skins Workshop by ten Mohawk students in Owisokon Lahache’s senior art class at Kahnawake Survival School. The workshop took place over nine months from September 2008 to June 2009. Participants drew on stories from the Kahnawake community to create the setting and narrative.

Otsì:! was awarded Best New Media Award at ImagineNATIVE 2010.

Skahiòn:hati: Legend of the Stone Giant, 2011
Created by the Skins 2.0 Collective
Skins 2.0: Skins Summer Institute
Concordia University

The Skins 2.0 Summer Institute took place at Concordia University with Mohawk students from Kahnawake. The outcome of the workshop is a one-level game in which we meet Skahiòn:hati (ska-YOON-ha-dee), a boastful young Iroquois man whose village comes under threat by the legendary Stone Giant.

Skahiòn:hati: Rise of the Kanien’kehá:ka Legends, 2012
Created by the Skins 3.0 Collective
Skins 3.0: Extended Play
Concordia University

In March and again in July 2012, participants from Skins 1.0 and 2.0 returned to combine and enhance their projects. The result is a three-level game that integrates stories and characters from the previous Skins games with new content. In Skahiòn:hati: Rise of the Kanien’kehá:ka Legends, Skahiòn:hati (ska-YOON-ha-dee) returns as the brash youth, itching to get out of his village. He is sent on a mission to fight the fearsome Stone Giant. Later, as a seasoned hunter, he must overcome the zombie-like Tree People before he can use the information from an elder’s story to confront the terrifying Flying Head.

Skahiòn:hati: Rise of the Kanien’kehá:ka Legends won Best New Media Award at the 2013 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Festival.

Ienién:te and the Peacemaker’s Wampum, 2013
Created by the Skins 4.0 Collective
Skins 4.0
Concordia University

During this three-week intensive workshop, participants created the first Skins game set in contemporary times. Ienién:te and the Peacemaker’s Wampum follows our heroine, Ienién:te (yeh-YAWN-day), home from university with her brand new archeology degree. After a series of powerful dreams and conversations with her grandmother, Ienién:te learns that a secret society of evil archeologists are close to finding the original wampum made by the Peacemaker. She must stop them.

He Ao Hou, 2017
Created by Nā ‘Anae Mahiki Collective
Skins 5.0: Telling Moʻolelo Through Video Games
Hālau ‘Īnana, Kamehameha Schools, Honolulu

In a collaboration with Kamehameha Schools, the Initiative for Indigenous Futures ran a Skins workshop with Native Hawaiian participants in Honolulu. The participants created He Ao Hou: A New World, a Hawaiian-language game set in space and in a universe filled with Kanaka Maoli stories and traditions.

Machinimas produced in workshops

Skins is a series of workshops for Indigenous youth offered by an Aboriginally-determined team of designers, artists, technologists, and educators. The workshops combine cultural exchange centered on storytelling with creative mentoring and technical training in digital media production. The goal is to empower Indigenous youth to be culturally-grounded producers—not just consumers—of digital media.

Our Skins machinima workshops have ranged in duration from 2 days to one week. In the shorter workshops, we focus on the technical aspects of making machinima. Typically, we ask participants to choose a scene from a favourite movie or music video, and then show them how to customize avatars and build virtual sets to resemble the original version. In longer workshops, we are able to spend time telling our stories, as well as designing characters, props and sets, and imagining how to bring them to life with machinima. You will note examples of both kinds of workshops in the screening room.

, 2016
4 min. 17 sec.

Dusty Carpenter, Isaiah Wadhams and Jennifer Pahl (Participants of a Skins Workshop with the Museum of Anthropology’s Native Youth Program)

The Madam
, 2016
3 min. 59 sec.

Latisha Wadhams, Karoleena Medina and Calvin Charlie-Dawson (Participants of a Skins Workshop with the Museum of Anthropology’s Native Youth Program)

Sock it to Me
, 2010
52 sec.

Judith Schuyler, Eva Rose Tabobondong and Joan Mendowegan (Participants of a Skins Machinima Workshop, ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, Toronto)

Fantastic Mr. Fox
, 2010
13 sec.

Amanda Strong and Brad Ladouceur (Participants of a Skins Machinima Workshop, ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, Toronto)

, 2010
31 sec.

Cecily Jacko, Jared Robillard and Tanis Desjarlais (Participants of a Skins Machinima Workshop, ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, Toronto)

Virtual reality residencies

Each Branch Determined by Postcommodity and Blueberry Pie Under the Martian Sky by Scott Benesiinaabandan were produced as part of the Initiative for Indigenous Future’s residency series. The projects are part of 2167, a commissioning series in which five Indigenous filmmakers and artists were asked to create virtual reality artworks set 150 years in the future. The series acts as a counterpoint to the celebrations of 150 years of Canadian confederation throughout 2017.

2167 is a collaboration between imagineNATIVE Film + Media Festival, TIFF, Pinnguaq and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures.


Each Branch Determined, 2017
Virtual Reality Environment on Samsung Gear

Courtesy of the artists

Each Branch Determined imagines northern New Mexico 150 years in the future and finds a series of interconnected American Indian and Xicano pueblos working collaboratively to exercise community and regional self-determination. The immersive experience guides users through landscapes and settings that are framed to exploit sci-fi conventions of an apocalyptic future. However, over time, the user discovers that what appears as apocalyptic is actually a series of managed processes intended to restore and manage land and natural resources, and community ceremonies intended to culturally and socially actuate past, present and future.


Scott Benesiinaabandan
Blueberry Pie Under the Martian Sky, 2017
Virtual Reality Environment on Samsung Gear

Courtesy of the artist

Anishnabe artist Benesiinaabandan recounts a story he was told by Cree Elder Wilfred Buck about Spider Woman. From her home at the centre of the Seven Sisters, Spider Woman wove a long thread along which the Anishinabe people travelled to Earth. Some modern interpretations of this legend say that this spider thread is a metaphor for a wormhole. Another story says that some day, a young boy will return to that place from where the Anishinabe came. Blueberry Pie Under the Martian Sky is a virtual reality artwork that takes place seven generations in the future, when human beings are able to travel through wormholes. It follows that young boy as he journeys back to his people’s place of origin.


Hunter Mega-Figurine, 2011
xox Mega-Figurine, 2017
Full colour sandstone 3D prints

Courtesy of the artist and ELLEPHANT Gallery, Montreal, Canada

, 1997-2004
iMac G4, Palace server software

Âhasiw Maskêgon-Iskwêw, Archer Pechawis, Audra Simpson, Bradlee LaRocque, Edward Poitras, Greg A. Hill, Jason E. Lewis, Jolene Rickard, Joseph (Dega) Tekaroniake Lazare, Lee Crowchild, Lori Blondeau, Marilyn Burgess, Melanie Printup Hope, Michelle Nahanee, Paul Chaat Smith, r e a, Rosalie Favell, Ryan Johnston, Ryan Rice, Sheila Urbanoski, Sheryl Kootenhayoo, Skawennati, Travis Neel and Trevor Van Weeren

Courtesy of the artists

CyberPowWow is a pioneering project initiated by Nation to Nation, a First Nations artist collective co-founded by Skawennati. From 1997-2004, CyberPowWow was an online gallery and chatspace that used the Internet to bridge the vast geographical distances, both in Canada and around the world, that separate Aboriginal people, especially contemporary Aboriginal artists. Four themed exhibitions took place, topically exploring the intersection between technology, art and identity. A mix of emerging and established Native and non-Native artists and writers were invited to create new works and texts that spoke to the theme.

Each exhibition was launched with a multi-site mixed-reality event. Roughly bi-annual, the events put the “pow wow” in CyberPowWow, taking place simultaneously in cyberspace and at official, real-life Gathering Sites across Turtle Island. These artist-run centres, community centres and galleries opened their doors to the public to increase access to people who might otherwise not log on.

CyberPowWow is the direct ancestor of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace. Subtitled “An Aboriginally determined territory in Cyberspace”, CyberPowWow gave us our name and informed subsequent AbTeC and IIF activities in many ways. It taught us that, even on the Internet, First Nations need a place to call our own. It was the first instance of filling in the blank spaces. And we liked it!

Note: This display of the project is an offline version of the original networked platform. Chat rooms can be navigated through clicking on various ‘doors’, navigation buttons and by using the “Rooms” window.


Imagining the Next Seven Generations, TEDxMontrealWomen, 2015
Video, 9 min. 4 sec.

Skawennati’s talk succinctly explains how and why she began imagining Indigenous people in the future.


Jason Edward Lewis
The Future Imaginary, TEDxMontreal, 2013
Video, 15 min 30 sec.

The Future Imaginary is the collection of stories, images and ideas that we use to talk with one another about what the future will be like, what kind of people will be in it and what kind of society they will build. Lewis talks about why it is important for Indigenous people to be involved in the dreaming up of the Future Imaginary through science fiction, and be engaged with the building of it by participating in the creation of the technologies on which it will based.


Display Cases

Virtual reality residencies
On iPad : Interview and public talk with Postcommodity
From left to right: preparatory sketches for Postcommodity’s Each Branch Determined by Étienne Legault, 2016; Concept designs for Scott Benesiinaabandan’s Blueberry Pie Under the Martian Sky by Nicole Lin, 2016

AbTeC Island, 2008-2017
Screenshots, research materials and ephemera from AbTeC Island

CyberPowWow, 1997-2004
Photographic documentation, publicity materials and ephemera from CyberPowWow

AbTeC Discursive documents, 1996-2017
Selection of texts written by and about AbTeC

AbTeC Bibliography
Selection of texts written by and about AbTeC, 1996-2017

Lectures and symposia
On iPad: video documentation from Initiative for Indigenous Futures Symposia (2015, 2016) and the Future Imaginary Lectures and Dialogues (2016-2017)

AbTeC Press
News media coverage of AbTeC activities

Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design, 2009-2017
On iPad: documentaries on Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design; photographic documentation, preparatory and character design sketches, voice acting scripts and ephemera from the Skins Workshops

Activating AbTeC Island

AbTeC Island is the piece of virtual land in Second Life owned by AbTeC since 2008. It has been used as a meeting place, an exhibition and performance space, a virtual classroom, and a location to build film sets for all the machinimas on display in this exhibition. Skawennati also envisions it as an on-line gathering spot for Indigenous artists. To that end, last year we initiated Activating AbTeC Island, a weekly time slot in which AbTeC staff are online to give tours or tutorials or just hang out.

You are invited to help activate AbTeC Island by inhabiting one of the avatars created for this exhibition and exploring the machinima sets and exhibits.  Don’t be afraid to say hi to other avatars (if their first name is Abbi, it is one of the AbTeC staff logging in from a different location. Feel free to ask them for a tour!).