Indigenous Futurisms

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Indigenous Futurisms 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 anthology, Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, 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.[4]

Dr. Grace Dillon, editor of Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction,[5] 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.[6] 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.[7][8]

Related movements[edit]

Like Afrofuturism, encapsulate multiple modes of art making from literature to visual arts, fashion and music.[9] Inspired by Afrofuturism, the term, Indigenous Futurism, more commonly written as Indigenous Futurisms, was coined by Dr. Grace Dillon,[10] professor in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program at Portland State University.[11]

Indigenous Futurisms is 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."[12]

Virtual Reality[edit]

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, mostly cis white men are the creators within the digital media field and digital technology industries. Indigenous Matriarch 4[13] 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.[14]VR is used by many Indigenous practitioners who use these new types of media to reimagine traditional storytelling and express themselves and their culture, promote health and wellbeing, and create self- esteem and pride. New virtual platforms have also been created that retell significant moments in indigenous history as well as to connect to the present, like the platform AbTeC Island (Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace).[15]


Indigenous Futurisms as a term has received mixed feedback among Indigenous Brazilian musicians, with many Indigenous artist not embracing this concept because they think that preserving culture is much more important than thinking about the future. For example, Indigenous rapper Kunumi MC, disagrees, arguing the term 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.”[16]

Indigenous Futurists[edit]

Prominent artists working within the field of Indigenous Futurisms include Loretta Todd (Cree/Métis), a filmmaker who runs IM4, the Indigenous Matriarchs 4 XR Media Lab;[17] Elizabeth LaPensée (Métis), a game designer and digital artist;[18] 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;[19]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ "Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace". Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  4. ^ "Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace". Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  5. ^ Dillon, Grace L. (2012). Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. The University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0-8165-2982-7.
  6. ^ Cornum, Lindsey Catherine. "Indigenous Futurism and Decolonial Deep Space". VOZ-À-VOZ. e-fagia organization. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Jenny L. Davis to give 2019 Marc and Constance Jacobson Lecture". LSA Institute for the Humanities. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  9. ^ Guzmán, Alicia Inez. "Indigenous Futurisms". InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture. University of Rochester. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Grace Dillon". Portland State University. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  12. ^ Merla-Watson, Cathryn Josefina (2017). "The Altermundos of Latin@futurism". Alluvium: 1–14.
  13. ^ Morin, Courteney (2019). "Screen Sovereignty: Indigenous Matriarch 4 Articulating the Future of Indigenous VR". New Media Review Bc Studies. 201: 141–146.
  14. ^ Keziah Wallis and Miriam Ross (2020). [ DOI: 10.1177/1354856520943083 "Fourth VR: Indigenous virtual reality practice"] Check |url= value (help). Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 27 (2): 313–329. doi:10.1177/1354856520943083. S2CID 225511526.
  16. ^ Miranda, Beatriz (2020). "'The way I am is an outrage': the Indigenous Brazilian musicians taking back a burning country". The Guardian.
  17. ^ "IM4 Media Lab". IM4 Media Lab. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Elizabeth LaPensée's Website". Elizabeth LaPensée Works. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  19. ^ Ore, Jonathan. "Machinima art series revisits Oka Crisis, moments in native history". Cbc News. Retrieved 2 January 2017.

Further reading and multimedia[edit]

  • Dillon, Grace L. Indigenous Futurisms [1], (pdf)
  • Roanhorse, Rebecca, Elizabeth LaPensée, Johnnie Jae, and Darcie Little Badger. “Decolonizing Science Fiction and Imagining Futures: An Indigenous Futurisms Roundtable.” Strange Horizons (Jan. 2017). [2]
  • LaPensée, Elizabeth. “Animating Indigenous Scientific Literacies.” Labocine (Jan. 2017). [3]
  • Nixson, Lindsay. "Visual Cultures of Indigenous Futurisms" GUTS Magazine (May. 2016). [4]
  • "Indigenous Futurisms," InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture, Alicia Inez Guzmán, March 15, 2015. [5]
  • "Indigenous Futurisms Mixtape," RPMfm [6]

External links[edit]