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Indigenous Futurism is a movement consisting of art, literature, comics, games, and other forms of media which express Indigenous perspectives of the future, past, and present in the context of science fiction and related sub-genres. Such perspectives may reflect Indigenous ways of knowing, traditional stories, historical or contemporary politics, and cultural realities.


In the late 20th century, Indigenous artists and writers experimented with science fiction and images of Indigenous lifeways through different spaces and times. In her anthology, Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science-Fiction (2012), Grace Dillon outlines how science fiction can aid processes of decolonization. Using tools like slipstream, worldbuilding, science fiction and anthropological First Contact scenarios, Indigenous communities construct self-determined representations and alternative narratives about their identities and futures. [1] Indigenous Futurists critique the exclusion of Indigenous people from the contemporary world and challenge notions of what constitutes advanced technology. [2] In so doing, the movement questions the digital divide, noting that Indigenous peoples have at once been purposefully excluded from accessing media technologies and constructed as existing outside of modernity. [3] The widespread use of personal computers and the Internet following the Digital Revolution created conditions in which, to some extent, Indigenous peoples may participate in the creation of a network of self-representations. [3]

Grace Dillon, editor of Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, [4] encouraged stories through IIF, the Imagining Indigenous Futurisms Science Fiction Contest. Lou Catherine Cornum is a writer, scholar, and Indigenous Futurist known for their work Space NDNs. [5] Chickasaw scholar Jenny L. Davis emphasizes the importance of 'Indigenous language futurisms,' where she shows that Indigenous languages are important to articulating and understanding Indigenous temporalities. [6] [7]

Concept of time

The concept of time in Indigenous Futurism moves away from Western traditional interpretations, both culturally and within the genre of speculative fiction. Time, according to Indigenous Futurists, encompasses and connects the past, present, and future all at once. [8] Artists may explore alternate histories, distant and near futures, separate timelines, time travel, the multiverse, and other topics in which time is not limited to a linear conceptualization. [9] Historical themes of colonialism, imperialism, genocide, conflict, the environment, trade and treaties, which have impacted Indigenous cultures, are recurring and reexamined, creating new narratives in the process. [10] Artists play with questions of race, privilege and "Whiteness", both in history and within the speculative genre; they are expanded upon, subverted, erased, reversed, etc., thereby linking culture to time, space, and what lies in-between. [11] The term biskaabiiyang ( Anishinaabe), used by Dillon, exemplifies how Indigenous creators reflect on the impact of colonization by returning to their ancestral roots, conflating past with present and future, as well as reframing what the world would or could be like. [10]

In other words, Indigenous Futurisms do not solely address the future, but create a range of scenarios and phenomena in which reimaginations of space, time, and Indigeneity are celebrated.


Literature lends itself to many aspects of Indigenous Futurism. Many of the stories revolving around Indigenous Futurisms contain an Indigenous main character, however, this does not define the genre, when referring to literature in Indigenous Futurisms we are referring to the Author, or the conceptualized stories, as defined in Dillon's anthology.

Literature is currently the most diverse subject in Indigenous Futurism, [4] works including: Love After the End, compiled by Joshua Whitehead, a collection of stories and perspectives from queer Indigenous peoples tackling colonialism and the ideas of hope. [12]

Scholarly works including; Knotting Ontologies, Beading Aesthetics, and Braiding Temporalities, by Darren Lone Fight, an examination of Native American literary epistemology and futurisms including an analysis of the Indigenous Star Wars phenomena. [13]

Visual art

An early source of collective Indigenous Futurisms is on the CyberPowWow website, a site launched by Skawennati ( Mohawk) for Indigenous artworks starting in 1997 to 2004. It was a precursor to her TimeTraveller™ Machinima series began with a 22nd-century Mohawk man. [14]

Many pieces of Indigenous Futurist artwork contain iconography or symbolism that reference Indigenous oral history. [4] Another major facet of Indigenous Futurist artwork is the adaptation of existing culture and nomenclature. [15] For instance, artist Bunky Echo-Hawk's “If Yoda was Indian” displays show a new perspective on Yoda from the franchise Star Wars.[ citation needed]

Kristina Baudemann focuses on storytelling and art and the integration of science fiction into Indigenous art in Indigenous Futurisms in North American Indigenous Art. She says that Indigenous people are resilient and sustainable and their art incorporates those characteristics. [16] One specific Indigenous artist, Ryan Singer ( Navajo Nation), paints in acrylic and silk-screens prints. He has two pieces of Princess Leia, from the Star Wars series that portrays the princess as Hopi, acknowledging George Lucas' cultural appropriation of the Hopi butterfly whorl hairstyle. [17] In his first painting, Hopi Princess Leia (2009), [18] he shows the Hopi Princess Leia holding a gun pointing straight at the audience while also staring directly at the audience as well. In his second Hopi Princess Leia, named Hopi Princess Leia II (2010), [19] Leia is seen holding a bigger gun and still looking directly at the audience. Baudemann analyses this depiction and says it creates awareness of the colonial gaze, which is harmful to indigeneity. [16] In these paintings Princess Leia is seen clad in a Hopi blanket, wearing the hairstyle typical to unmarried Hopi girls. [16] She is in front of her pueblo homes protecting them with her gun. Baudemann emphasizes the idea that Hopi homes should be seen as homes and not monuments that can be looked at by outsiders and they should not be appropriated. [16] Princess Leia, in the Star Wars movies, loves her home and tries her hardest to protect it which is why Singer chose Princess Leia to be depicted in these paintings. [16]


Indigenous Futurisms in film reflect non-colonial encounters such as utopian sovereignty and dystopian assimilation. [20] The continued development of Indigenous Futurist frameworks account for the diversity of creative efforts and histories between the First Nations, Inuit, and Native American filmmakers and communities [20] to influence the outside world.

Some Indigenous Futurist films include:

Video games

While not as prominent as other mediums, video games provide a more hands-on approach to the teaching and display of Indigenous Futurism. [21] Representation of indigenous cultures has been part of video games for years, with iconic games such as The Oregon Trail depicting Indigenous peoples. However, the specific genre of Indigenous Futurism in video games is a relatively new concept and very few prominent games fall into this category.

Indigenous Futurist games range from games such as Thunderbird Strike, an action game where you take on the form of the legendary Thunderbird, gathering lightning to destroy mining equipment and factories on a terrorized and barren earth, to games such as Never Alone, which tells the story of a Iñupiaq and an Arctic fox as they explore a dire atmosphere and experience the mythology of the Alaska Natives for themselves.[ citation needed] Thunderbird Strike features significant artistic components and lots of indigenous imagery. The indigenous creator of the game, Elizabeth LaPensée, calls the art style "woodland" or "x-ray," and it is greatly inspired by Anishinaabe culture. [22] The game offers a form of protest specifically against the oil industry. Additionally, the popular game Fallout: New Vegas features a DLC titled Honest Hearts that showcases Indigenous culture in a dystopian future. Various tribes exist in the new region of Zion Canyon and the connection to nature is showcased with rain and friendly dogs being introduced to Fallout: New Vegas for the first time. [23]

There has been controversy surrounding representation of Native people in video games, and iconic games such as The Oregon Trail have depicted Indigenous cultures to be dangerous and violent. [24] Many new video games have begun hiring consultants from the Native community to ensure accurate representation, with the popular video game Assassins Creed III collaborating on the game with the Mohawk Nation. [24] A recent Indigenous Futurist game, Terra Nova, was produced by Maize Longboat, a member of the Mohawk tribe, and many other indigenous people have been engaging in the production of video games centered around indigenous themes. [25]

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is a medium in which the concept of screen sovereignty can be used to combat misrepresentation of Indigenous people in media. Indigenous VR makers are shaping the culture of technology through VR in order to properly represent Indigenous people and their culture. Currently, white media creators dominate the digital media field and digital technology industries. Indigenous Matriarch 4 [26] is a virtual reality company that provides Indigenous people with the tools they need to participate in and remake the virtual world. Because Indigenous people are often misrepresented in media, VR has become a place to creatively express Native American culture and ideas. Indigenous VR has also provided Indigenous people with the opportunity to be leaders in a new technology field, and to be involved in technology fields that previously excluded them and that had very little representation of Native American and Indigenous communities.

Virtual reality is being used to create space and capacity for Indigenous creatives to tell their stories. [27] VR is used by many Indigenous practitioners to reimagine traditional storytelling and express themselves and their culture, promote health and wellbeing, and foster self-esteem and pride. New virtual platforms have also been created that retell significant moments in Indigenous history as well as connect to the present, like the platform AbTeC Island (Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace). [28]

The 2167VR Project (2017), in partnership with the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (TIIF), commissioned the works of many Indigenous artists such as Danis Goulet (Métis), Kent Monkman (Cree), Postcommodity and Scott Benesiinaabandan (Lac Seul First Nation), notable for his work Blueberry Pie Under a Martian Sky. [8] This immersive project exhibits virtual reality works set 150 years forward in time, paralleling Canada's 150th anniversary, each offering a different perspective on the role Indigenous peoples and identities will have in building the future. [29]


To increase this movement's visibility and bring attention to Indigenous voices, the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) has established a branch, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA), located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which collects and exhibits over 10,000 Indigenous works. [30] The MoCNA has an exhibition entitled Indigenous Futurisms, featuring the works of 27 contemporary Indigenous artists. Following the pandemic, the MoCNA has transferred the collection to an online gallery and made available a VR experience which the public can access through their devices. [31]

Related movements

The term Indigenous Futurism, more commonly written as Indigenous Futurisms, was coined by Grace Dillon, [32] professor in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program at Portland State University. [33] The term was inspired by Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism, all of which encapsulate multiple modes of art-making from literature to visual arts, fashion, and music. [34]

Indigenous Futurisms are also connected to Chicanafuturism, "a spectrum of speculative aesthetics produced by U.S. Latin@s, including Chican@s, Puerto Ricans, Dominican Americans, Cuban Americans, and other Latin American immigrant populations. It also includes innovative cultural productions stemming from the hybrid and fluid borderlands spaces, including the U.S.-Mexico border." [35]


Indigenous Futurisms as a term has received mixed feedback among Indigenous Brazilian musicians. Many Indigenous artists do not embrace this concept because they view preserving culture to be much more important than thinking about the future. For example, Indigenous rapper Kunumi MC, disagrees with the term, arguing that it is a white man's term unreflective of Indigenous people, saying: “We, native Indigenous people living in tribes, don't think about the future,” he says. “The white man has a vision of progress, not us. Our progress is to preserve our culture ... to live in the present, I have to remember my past.” [36]

List of Indigenous Futurists

Artists working within the field of Indigenous Futurisms include: Darren Lone Fight (Mvskoke, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara), a literary critic and professor who runs Center for the Futures of Native Peoples at Dickinson College; [37] Loretta Todd (Cree/Métis), a filmmaker who runs IM4, the Indigenous Matriarchs 4 XR Media Lab; [38] Skawennati (Mohawk), a multimedia artist best known for her project TimeTraveller, a nine-episode machinima series that uses science fiction to examine First Nations histories; [39]

See also


  1. ^ Gore, Amy (December 2013). "Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction". Studies in American Indian Literatures. 25 (4): 100–103. doi: 10.5250/studamerindilite.25.4.0100 – via Arts & Humanities Citation Index.
  2. ^ Cornum, Lou Catherine (January 26, 2015). "The Space NDN's Star Map". The New Inquiry.
  3. ^ a b "Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace". Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  4. ^ a b c Dillon, Grace L. (2012). Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. The University of Arizona Press. ISBN  978-0-8165-2982-7.
  5. ^ Cornum, Lindsey Catherine. "Indigenous Futurism and Decolonial Deep Space". VOZ-À-VOZ. e-fagia organization. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  6. ^ Davis, Jenny L. (2018). Talking Indian: Identity and Language Revitalization in the Chickasaw Renaissance. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. p. 148. ISBN  978-0-8165-3768-6. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  7. ^ "Jenny L. Davis to give 2019 Marc and Constance Jacobson Lecture". LSA Institute for the Humanities. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  8. ^ a b Fricke, Suzanne Newman (2019-05-04). "Introduction: Indigenous Futurisms in the hyperpresent now". World Art. 9 (2): 107–121. doi: 10.1080/21500894.2019.1627674. ISSN  2150-0894. S2CID  203334625.
  9. ^ McEnaney, Lillia (September 2020). "Indigenous Futurisms: Transcending Past/Present/Future: Curated by Suzanne Fricke, Chelsea Herr (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), and Manuela Well-Off-Man, February 13, 2020-January 3, 2021, Institute of America". Visual Anthropology Review. 36 (2): 417–424. doi: 10.1111/var.12212. S2CID  234639692.
  10. ^ a b Lidchi, Henrietta; Fricke, Suzanne Newman (2019-05-04). "Future history: Indigenous Futurisms in North American Visual Arts". World Art. 9 (2): 99–102. doi: 10.1080/21500894.2019.1627675. ISSN  2150-0894. S2CID  203235446.
  11. ^ Mitchell, Audra; Chaudhury, Aadita (September 2020). "Worlding beyond 'the' 'end' of 'the world': white apocalyptic visions and BIPOC futurisms". International Relations. 34 (3): 309–332. doi: 10.1177/0047117820948936. ISSN  0047-1178. S2CID  221789970.
  12. ^ "10 Unforgettable Indigenous Futurism Books by Indigenous Authors". 2020-10-08. Retrieved 2021-12-09.
  13. ^ "Knotting Ontologies, Beading Aesthetics, and Braiding Temporalities". https://cuz 2023-08-01. Retrieved 2023-08-01.
  14. ^ "Skawennati: Time Traveller™". Niagara Arts Centre. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  15. ^ Baudemann, Kristina (March 22, 2016). "Indigenous futurisms in North American Indigenous art: the transforming visions of Ryan Singer, Daniel McCoy, Topaz Jones, Marla Allison, and Debra Yepa-Pappan". Extrapolation. 57 (1–2): 117–151. doi: 10.3828/extr.2016.8.
  16. ^ a b c d e Baudemann, Kristina. (January 2016). Indigenous Futurisms in North American Indigenous Art. Liverpool University. Extrapolation Volume 57, Issue 1-2
  17. ^ Schmitt, Erika (November 18, 2020). "Based on a True Story: Leia's Bun Hairstyle". Twin Suns Post. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  18. ^ Singer, Ryan. (2009). Hopi Princess Leia. Art.
  19. ^ Singer, Ryan. (2010). Hopi Princess Leia II. Art
  20. ^ a b Lempert, William (2021-11-19). "Native Sci-fi Films and Trailers". Space + Anthropology. Retrieved 2021-12-09.
  21. ^ Lempert, William (November 2014). "Decolonizing Encounters of the Third Kind: Alternative Futuring in Native Science Fiction Film". Visual Anthropology Review. 30 (2): 164–176. doi: 10.1111/var.12046. ISSN  1058-7187.
  22. ^ "Is Thunderbird Strike a fun learning tool or an ecoterrorist's version of Angry Birds? | Great Lakes Echo". 2018-02-14. Retrieved 2023-12-01.
  23. ^ Caruso, Michael (2020-08-12). "Fallout New Vegas: 10 Things You Missed About Zion Canyon". TheGamer. Retrieved 2023-12-06.
  24. ^ a b "Voyages Into Native Worlds: Gaming Offers a Glimpse into Indigenous Cultures and Stories". NMAI Magazine. Retrieved 2023-12-06.
  25. ^ Muzyka, Kyle (March 8, 2019). "Telling the story of first contact ... with a futuristic video game". CBC. Retrieved December 5, 2023.
  26. ^ Morin, Courteney (2019). "Screen Sovereignty: Indigenous Matriarch 4 Articulating the Future of Indigenous VR". New Media Review Bc Studies. 201: 141–146.
  27. ^ Keziah Wallis and Miriam Ross (2020). [ "Fourth VR: Indigenous virtual reality practice"]. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 27 (2): 313–29. doi: 10.1177/1354856520943083. S2CID  225511526. {{ cite journal}}: Check |url= value ( help)
  28. ^ McNamara, Rea (2020). "Skawennati Makes Space for Indigenous Representation and Sovereignty in the Virtual World of Second Life".
  29. ^ Wallis, Keziah; Ross, Miriam (April 2021). "Fourth VR: Indigenous virtual reality practice". Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 27 (2): 313–329. doi: 10.1177/1354856520943083. ISSN  1354-8565. S2CID  225511526.
  30. ^ "IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) > Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)". Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). Retrieved 2022-02-10.
  31. ^ McEnaney, Lillia (September 2020). "Indigenous Futurisms: Transcending Past/Present/Future: Curated by Suzanne Fricke, Chelsea Herr (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), and Manuela Well-Off-Man, February 13, 2020-January 3, 2021, Institute of Americ". Visual Anthropology Review. 36 (2): 417–424. doi: 10.1111/var.12212. S2CID  234639692.
  32. ^ Gaertner, David (23 March 2015). ""WHAT'S A STORY LIKE YOU DOING IN A PLACE LIKE THIS?": CYBERSPACE AND INDIGENOUS FUTURISM". Novel Alliances: Allied Perspectives on Literature, Art and New Media.
  33. ^ "Grace Dillon". Portland State University. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  34. ^ Guzmán, Alicia Inez. "Indigenous Futurisms". InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture. University of Rochester. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  35. ^ Merla-Watson, Cathryn Josefina (2017). "The Altermundos of Latin@futurism". Alluvium: 1–14.
  36. ^ Miranda, Beatriz (2020). "'The way I am is an outrage': the Indigenous Brazilian musicians taking back a burning country". The Guardian.
  37. ^ "Center for the Future of Native Peoples". Native News Online. Retrieved 2 August 2023.
  38. ^ "IM4 Media Lab". IM4 Media Lab. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  39. ^ Ore, Jonathan. "Machinima art series revisits Oka Crisis, Moments in Native History". Cbc News. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  40. ^ a b Deerchild, Rosanna (June 19, 2019). "Looking towards the future: Indigenous futurism in literature, music, film and fashion". CBC Radio. Retrieved 24 April 2023.

Further reading

External links