Xbox celebrates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Microsoft and Xbox have announced a series of initiatives to commemorate this year’s celebration of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples. It is the United Nations holiday dedicated to raising awareness of the conditions faced by indigenous people around the world.

The United States and Canada each celebrate their own Indigenous Peoples Day in October and Junerespectively.

Xbox marked the holidays for the first time in 2021. This year, the company took extra steps to not only celebrate groups like the Anishinaabe, Yurok and Snoqualmie Tribe, but also looked further to recognize the Polynesian Maori people and the northern indigenous group of the Sami.

The Xbox logo rendered by Haimona Mauera and Dillon King.

The company supports and recognizes these peoples by commissioning artwork from artists from these groups, encouraging players to donate to various nonprofits through Microsoft Rewards, and highlighting the stories of indigenous players in its Xbox Ambassador program.

These not-for-profit organizations include the American Indian Science and Engineering Societythe First Nations Development Instituteand Inspiration.

Additionally, the company promotes its collections of games featuring Indigenous characters or created by Indigenous developers that can be purchased on Xbox or PC. These include Tell me why, Raji: an ancient epic, never alone, and City button.

Xbox has taken additional steps to include more Indigenous groups

This expanded set of Xbox Team Actions represents additional work the company has undertaken to connect with different indigenous peoples. The UN vacation aims to recognize people from all over the world who may have incredibly distinct cultures and practices, but also “share common issues related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples”.

Jenn Panattoni, head of Xbox Social Impact and co-head of Xbox’s Indigenous Community Group (who herself is a descendant of the Karuk tribe) told Game Developer that the company wants to support communities through “meaningful partnerships. which led her to reach out to local Indigenous tribes and seek recommendations from Microsoft’s Indigenous Working Group on who to present at this year’s event.

A commemoration of Sami culture and Skyrim by Swedish artist Petra Brandström
A commemoration of Sami culture in Skyrim by Swedish artist Petra Brandström.

For commissioning each tribe’s art pieces (which also come with artist statements explaining their meaning), Panattoni said the company’s advice was for them to “leverage the Xbox sphere as a simple canvas and create a work of art that speaks to them as artists and resonates with the traditional art styles of their tribes.”

“It was an opportunity for us to educate people around the world on how even the smallest detail has significant meaning and contributes to a much bigger story being told,” she added.

Xbox’s process not only represents a solid effort to celebrate different Indigenous peoples, but also provides guidance for other developers to consider these groups in their work. The company’s choice to center people from specific groups and let them share stories from the history of their tribes (and also pay them) is an important step to take.

It’s also remarkable how well the company’s inclusion efforts are growing. Earlier this year, he prepared a large donation to transgender rights organizations in response to growing anti-transgender bigotry in the United States and other countries.

There are still many ways for Xbox and the game development world to better recognize Indigenous peoples, especially by taking influence from different cultures to create fantastical environments. It will be interesting to see if Xbox is able to translate this work into its development practices via Native at Microsoft and beyond.

About Sara Rodriquez

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