TALK | Indigenous Futurism: A Relational View of Emerging Technologies - Mahrinah Shije

TALK | Indigenous Futurism: A Relational View of Emerging Technologies - Mahrinah Shije

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It is my pleasure to introduce General Partner at Endemic Venture Capital Mahrinah Shije, as she talks about emerging technologies and the representation of culture within gaming. Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. I am Mahrinah Shije. Hey, and I'll be speaking today on Indigenous futurism.

There it is, excellent. So good afternoon. First and foremost, what is Indigenous futurism as a term coined by Grace Dillon relating to Afrofuturism, but has been used in many different contexts over the years by dozens and dozens of Indigenous creators, artists, authors, academics. For me, I come from the world of tech policy and just general tech innovation sector on the business side of things. So I use it more in a strategic foresight capacity. And so what does this mean? We use a framework to map out possible futures vision, plan and implement using Indigenous frameworks, knowledge bases and ways of being and knowing that are independent from colonial cultures, allowing for more holistic outcomes.

These innovations allow us to view the world differently than it's standardly presented to us. And, you know, just the status quo capacities and develop breakthroughs that can create transformative change. We're talking about Indigenous easing and revitalizing our cultures, but also just in digitizing the world into healthier and more non extractive perspectives. One example of this in gaming is torn from World of Warcraft. And I'll have more later on in the presentation. So next piece is it's protocol for me to share with you why the context of why I'm here on the stage today.

And this protocol is traditional for Indigenous people and existed since time immemorial. So, sengi ti’i kuwatsina say hopa. These are the Tewa and keres languages. I just said Hello everyone, and good afternoon. I've served in my tribal leadership.

I work on global indigenous issues. I support Indian countries growth through national organizations and I have a strong Western education and professional experience. I just want to share a little bit about these photos since they're up there. This is a Pueblo deer dance from Ohkay Owingeh, showing it at the top.

We don't generally allow photos in our villages, but these were from on the Internet, so I felt like sharing below that is san el adolfo, which is the pueblo my family comes from. And this is our Comanche dance, which we usually do on our feast day in January every year on the left are our fields. We're farmer people. And my little brother out there just irrigating land.

Down on the left is us visiting one of our ancestral villages in central Arizona, just north of Flagstaff. This is from our Hopi relatives called La Marche. And my husband running below, which is a form of prayer and part of our life ways. So starting on the same page, like who are indigenous peoples, I don't ever make the assumptions that people have worked with indigenous peoples and it means a lot more than just being from a place. So the working U.N.

definition means that indigenous peoples are those who have a historical continuity to pre-invasion societies, have developed ethnic cultures in their territories and then considered themselves distinct from the societies that now exist in those territories. It's important to have this distinction because we now form at present generally and not in all cases, and there are indigenous nations globally, but that have, you know, full statehood status. But we generally form non-dominant sectors of society and we choose to have this independent identification to preserve and develop our culture to future generations. Indigenous peoples are 5% of the global population, almost 400 million people in the right now. And we're looking in nearly every country, every continent, every phenotypic skin type. This is the permanent form of indigenous issues at the United Nations, and it shows you just a small example of that representation from all over the world.

I do have my own additions to this definition, and that definition was created by Indigenous leaders from all over the world, across decades, and it's a beautiful working definition. I just have some personal ones of my own. And did a group of people retain an original identity or did they become something else? So if I say that I'm a Tewa person or I say that an American person, these are two distinct things. If I just identified as American, am I really, you know, identifying with my indigenous culture any longer? I don't believe so. You know, do we pray in the same way as our ancestors and languages, or do we have continuous community history, biosphere, interaction, relationships, and do these land based ways of prayer and stewardship relationship with the places that our ancestors inhabited Continue post displacement if there is any displacement because we know some tribes were moved around.

One of the pieces that is really critical in this space and will be critical moving forward for anyone working in any type of digital development, media development, anything in cyberspace is the fact that tribal nations can assert the rights for cyber sovereignty under international law, which is really exciting. This is this is like the first time we've had the opportunity to do something where we've had exclusivity since, you know, really on this level, since since gaming. And it's really far beyond that.

And it offers the opportunity for native sovereign nations to negotiate cyber treaties, protect cyber tribal citizens or cultural intellectual property, and assert government to government relationships in cyberspace. It also presents the opportunity for us to work with our independent digital economy through relationships with our neighbors. And this is where things get really exciting and the enjoyment of unique independent regulatory environments which are human centered, not corporate centered.

You know, in the U.S., it's we don't we don't enjoy some of the the cyber protections that people in other parts of the world do, such as GDPR in Europe. So with the potential protections under cyber sovereignty, there are chances that, you know, we can work together depending on, you know, what what nation wants to do in the state and location they exist. We also have the opportunity to enforce our rights through I use the reference of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

But a good example of this is Google Maps. Technically, a lot of our tribal nations are private. We don't allow photos, we don't allow videos, we don't want sketching, we don't own mapping. And Google Maps has huge map like perfect maps of our villages, the roads, the sacred sites, the places that we go to.

And I have no images of this, but they do have the ability to tour many tribal nations. And my village in particular, you can go right through the plaza and there's, you know, our older Kiva right there. And there's photos of this all over the Internet, which is really challenging for us because it's not what we choose.

And in my husband's Pueblo, there are photos of the signs at the front of the village that say, please do not come in here and take photos and videos. And Google has these up. So, you know, there's a lot of ways that our rights are currently violated as indigenous peoples in cyberspace, and we all have the same rights.

But, you know, this can adapt and change and get into healthier ways. And capitalism might not be culturally reconcilable for us as indigenous peoples, but we do live in these systems with everyone else and continuously adapt and have opportunities to build internal capacity and scale these external relationships in cyberspace that are incredible and so unique. Why is this so critical? So this is something called the cultural iceberg theory. And basically what you can see of, you know, another culture is like very surface level. And I think there's a huge assumption that just, you know, like, oh, like this this group of people is is dancing in as a form of prayer or they have feathers. And this is something that they like.

It's like, no, those have specific uses and are extracted in a certain way. And, you know, the colors that we from the colors that we wear to, you know, the moccasins on my feet right now, everything connects us to the world around us. And the things that we and our families embody and represent.

And in cyberspace. You know, I had a panel earlier and had spoken about like, you know, the scraping of indigenous imagery to just kind of vomit out these just messed up versions of, you know, who and what we are, which enforces that perception bias. These things are not important, are not unique or are not critical or were unsophisticated. But for us, when we do assert our rights in cyberspace, it allows us to safeguard the continuation of our cultural lifeways, which are tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of years old in specific places, and that stewardship practices that we have or unique to particular environments that are so critical. This will allow us to continue to safeguard environmental and biological diversity.

There's a UN statistic that Indigenous people safeguard 80% of the world's biodiversity, but I like to flip this statistic when I'm speaking to external audiences in that 5% of the global population is for hundred percent more successful than the remaining 95% of the global population and environmental stewardship and biodiversity retention. And to me, that's an absolute flooring number because we don't have frontier technologies generally paired with what we do in our communities. So we have the capacity collectively to work together to do some radical things on climate change. And, you know, we're hopeful that we're continuously included in more and all conversations moving forward.

But, you know, our ways seek balance and harmony. We approach one another in the world around us with care and respect. And as we legislate our government to government relationships in cyberspace, we can create cyber treaties and healthier relationships with our neighbors to protect digital human rights, partner and healthier digital economies.

Using these tools, we're learning to use these tools in ways that follow our traditional protocols. And, you know, we when we create something new, you know, we do it with with prayer and intention and with a lot of love and respect. And so we're learning how to do that with with digital tools in cyberspace and things we can't see or hold. But, you know, this will evolve in an indigenous way for us to create that harmony and balance in cyberspace, which is going to be much more unique than, you know, what we're seeing.

And even, you know, intellectual and cultural abstract extraction that we are concerned about with, you know, the emerging technologies that we have. So this is an example from Jeff Suma, from the Pueblo, of Cochiti, which is a central Rio Grande de Pueblo in New Mexico. This is an NFT.

It is also a traditional form of pottery where we live. So these are all earth pigments and clay that he harvested and indigenous innovation. We can use, you know, blockchain for unique things within our communities. But also another example of this would be the United States did not sign the Kyoto protocols to trade in price, carbon and other things that are included in that. But that allowed tribal nations the opportunity to trade it and price carbon.

And we can use or we have been using, you know, blockchains to do exactly that within our communities. And so that's a huge economic opportunity. It's a great, you know, digital partnership opportunity where we work with outside organizations to do those things. You know, we are able to continue our physical relationships to the place that we live in, our environment, in cyberspace. So the a lot of people got into cryptocurrencies a few years ago from Rosebud. Sioux, There was a man who created a token called Maza Coin and he's been tokenizing natural resources so that we can continue our stewardship in cyberspace.

Our goals are generally for community and collective good. For example, there is a DAO in Albuquerque, New Mexico, run by Henry Henry Foreman called the In Digidal, and it's about trading and working together through these new technologies, through our storytelling, language and cultural preservation. There's a man named Michael Running Wolf who is running something called Indigenous AIDS Preserve, the Lakota language.

You know, we're we're interested in pushing the limits of possibility guided by these cultural protocols and, you know, our our traditional innovation methodologies were absolutely incredible in producing things that were healthy for people and planet. I had a conversation last night over the Ford Foundation with Hemis Pueblo architect Gary Knepper, who talked to me last night about how our Adobe has a net zero positive effect on on the environment around us. And that's something that like they're just figuring out now and that we use for, you know, tens of thousand years in the Southwest. So, you know, we are looking at using these technologies to, you know, advance and and exponentially create impact in those ways. So these are some representations of indigenous culture within our gaming, The top right corner and the upper left, middle and bottom of the pottery is from Virgil Ortiz.

He's from Pueblo of Cochiti as well. And this is his Blind Archer saga. He currently has an XR exhibit in a museum in Colorado about the Pueblo revolt of 1680. It's a really incredible way to experience our cultures, but this is he has a whole universe of characters that are ripe for for turning into gaming. But this is also the way that he blends our traditional our traditional technologies and methodologies with what he's doing and future presentation. This other piece is from a maori woman named Maru Nihoniho from Metia Games, and this is an Xbox game called The Guardian, and it's essentially a maori woman who, you know, saves the world around her from, you know, this horrible extraction of things that are happening.

But she's, you know, this tough, amazing, traditional, badass woman. And she also does a lot with mental health work in gaming, which is, you know, from from the Maori cultural perspective and also so absolutely incredibly necessary. We have very minimal culturally sensitive, you know, media for mental health in indigenous nations. So one other thing, when we develop these pieces, we do so in considering our intergenerational impacts, not just what's possible. Now, but what the future holds and how this affects not only our children, not only our grandchildren, but, you know, multiple, multiple generations in advance. We say 7 generations.

But citing Dr. Gregory Cajete who is a scholar and anti war religious leader, he contends that it's mandatory to include the exploration of basic questions such as the nature of language and thought and perception, time, feeling, knowing, interconnectedness and proper relations to the cosmos. In all of our innovations. So the work that you're doing every way, this is something that, you know, we consider when we're making anything. And it is a heavy thing, but it also produces really beautiful outcomes. Our innovation carries traditional knowledge, practice and value by people and communities, but it does so in a four dimensional model.

This is also pioneered by Dr. Cajete Today at the University of New Mexico. So the fundamental model is emotional, spiritual, cognitive and physical.

Our innovation is experienced all relational and holistic. And, you know, it's really important to consider where this is lacking in our innovation economy was lacking in, you know, the work that we're doing in our offices and, you know, the things that we're producing for general markets. I have an intersection to consider later on about Indigenous innovation and just standard ITC sector innovation.

So I gave her an example earlier of a traditional protocol. There are so many, but our innovation methodologies are experiential, you know, hands on 40 models, as I mentioned. And we we do look at the Internet generational perspectives as opposed to just creating a standard or looking at the thought leaders.

We really allow anyone from any perspective to have that capacity. So moving on to tribal private partnerships, all of our cultural intellectual property is community owned, is collectively owned by our ancestors, those that are here now and those who are yet to come when we work together, we have to be mindful of those legacies and responsibilities to our collective futures. In the past, when we explore gaming content and the relationality that it drives, it creates new conditions for future human interactions, and we have to be mindful of those guidelines. So working with indigenous innovators represents an opportunity to collectively create the best representations and tools for humanity and work in tandem with native sovereign nations for an unprecedented potential for impact.

If you are looking for native people, we are all over the place. You know, you can Google all sorts of national organizations. II, the Institute for American Indian Arts is in Santa Fe. They have, you know, people that they're skilling up that can work in the industry. We have so many different kinds of artists and writers and just incredible people.

They may not have the exact skill sets but are wonderful to collaborate with. So I do encourage, you know, bringing that on and also making sure that I know there are mindful protocols being followed, which I have seen thanks to this this conference. You know, some really incredible examples of people who have developed games in partnerships with indigenous people and people who are working to develop new games in the future.

And it's really inspiring from, you know, never alone to Nunaka. And, you know, I am really looking forward to those next iterations. So thank you and control her and my language and nature and my husband's.

And I'm looking forward to being in contact with you all and have a great rest of your conference. Thank you.

2023-09-15 02:37

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