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James Darin Corbiere: Speaking Our Truth

Anishinaabe artist shares his interactive board game on Truth and Reconciliation.


In 2017, Anishinaabe artist Darin Corbiere was a teacher with the Ontario School District and a committee member helping to apply the national calls to action put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in local schools. This committee helped create teaching resources and toolkits that touch on Indigenous relations in Canada, and one of the ideas that came out of the sessions was a board game created by Darin to be used in classroom settings.


Photo: Corbiere stands at his display booth at the Art Vancouver Fair, holding a copy of The Truth in Truth and Reconciliation, taken by Cara McKenna.


At this point, Darin had been teaching for a decade in a high school setting, always trying to approach his class with a decolonial lens and find alternative ways for his students to learn about history. The Truth in Truth and Reconciliation board game came to be developed as a resource for himself and other teachers to use in their classrooms.


The first time this game was played was with Darin’s three highschool classes in 2017. He received an excited and interested response from his students, who not only enjoyed the game but came to garner a greater interest for their studies. Darin believes that this alternative learning approach can benefit and engage a greater audience of students to learn more about Canada’s history.


The game’s mechanics work as a trivia-like game, including skill-testing questions about Canadian history, as well as facts, did-you-knows, and true or false questions that the players take turns drawing from a pile. The player tokens include Indigenous representations from each of the provinces and territories, as well as the Crown, and the Church. The goal of the Indigenous characters is to make their way around the game board and collect four eagle feathers to become ‘survivors’, all while maintaining their ‘currency’ (Language, Culture, Land, and Identity). If the players run out of ‘currency’, they become ‘extinct’ and can no longer play the game. The goal of the Crown and Church is to strip the other players of their ‘currency’ and to have them go ‘extinct’.


Over the next year, Darin worked on the prototype and hired a graphic designer to digitalize his artwork into the familiar style of a mainstream board game, including vibrant colors and visuals, as well as sardonic and satirical card designs. He toured the new version of the game at local powwows and teacher conferences around the province, and he always received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from people who stopped by to try the game.


In 2018, Darin began to work with a large educational publisher to play-test the game in Ontario schools. It was tested in both the public secular (English and French school boards) and the public separate (Catholic English and French school boards). At the end of the test run, the publisher suggested using simplified language, and to take out the negative attribute cards from the game, to create what Darin referred to as “Truth Lite”, or a game that shies away from some of the uncomfortable parts of Canadian History.


This decision was influenced by members of the separate boards who were primarily catholic. Though the school boards believed that the game was important and well-made, parents in the testing groups were uncomfortable with the Church garnering negative attributes throughout the game, believing it to send the wrong message to their children. Darin offered to instead replace the ‘shame’ attribute with ‘humility’ - using not only a less harsh word, but also one in reference to the teachings of the Seven Grandfathers in Anishinaabe culture. Ultimately this did not make a difference to the publishing office, and Darin moved on without a print deal, believing that the negative aspect was a valuable part of the game and the message it was trying to teach about reconciliation and Canadian history.


Since then, Darin has tried to reach out to a few other Canadian publishers about the game, and has either had a lack of interest, or been met with ideals of production that Darin felt uncomfortable with. From the beginning, Darin has always emphasized that the need for this to be an educational resource was more important than making money off of the product, and that he wanted the game to be accessible to people.


Darin started a Go Fund Me campaign that is listed at a whopping $1.5 million dollars, but this is with the intent to print, import, ship, and give away 22,000 copies to school districts across Canada. In an interview, Darin broke down the total, and nearly $600,000 was going to shipping and importing from a print company located in Michigan. These prices aren’t reflecting a corporate entity or business ordering on a massive scale, but the research and work done by one independent artist trying to make his dream a reality.


Darin is reaching out in the hopes to gain support for his game, not just monetarily, but also by spreading the word to reach the ears of industry professionals who can assist in guiding this project in the right direction. The potential of this project is easy to see given the current political climate of Canada, and the nature of the game being based on educational reconciliation is invaluable.


Throughout this project, Darin believes that it could potentially branch out into further directions, but once again, he needs the assistance to do so. He needs people interested and willing to listen to the possibilities. At age 57, Darin is hoping to retire and commit himself fully to his artistic journey, hoping to take a different pathway into graphic novels and storytelling.



If you are interested in learning more about the game, there is information and videos available on Darin’s website: https://easternwoodlandart.ca/board-game/


If you are interested in looking into the Go Fund Me campaign, you can find it here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-truth-in-truth-and-reconciliation-board-game?utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer


 

James Darin Corbiere is an Anishinaabe artist from the Great Lakes Region of Ontario, currently living on Vancouver Island.


He is a multi-media artist and storyteller, who loves using vibrant colours in his work as he visualizes the stories of the world around him.


For interview or business inquiries, please contact: easternwoodlandart@gmail.com


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