Ashley Kronebusch, Staff Writer
Game-playing is one of the most unique and dynamic expressions of our humanity, dating back over 5,000 years and being apart of every world culture. Whether it be sports, board games, icebreakers or more recently video games, games have been bringing people together in unique and significant ways for thousands of years. This past Tuesday evening, the Augsburg Indigenous Student Association (AISA) came together to embody how games can create community.
The event was held as part of a series commemorating Native American Heritage month. A mix of contemporary games and traditional games were prepared, from Cards for Decolonization to hand games, also known as stick games. Joe Gaskill, president of AISA, stressed that although more games were prepared, not all had to be played. “Games are community chosen. We may be running the event, but we’re simply here to give options to folks.”
We ended up playing hand games, a competitive game where players are split into two teams. One team is tasked with hiding two differently colored beads, which traditionally would have been carved animal teeth or stones, in two team members’ hands, while the other team guesses which hand holds the correct bead. The alternate name, stick games, stems from the fact that the teams lose or gain sticks depending on whether they guess correctly. At first glance, this might seem like a game of pure luck, but this would be deceptive. Hand games are very strategic, not just intellectual, but taking embodied form as teams try to trick each other by cleverly hiding the beads.
Gaskill especially emphasized the idea of community-building as the reason for holding this event. “Games are here for each other, for everyone, everyone can join and learn them…We don’t just have a community of natives, there’s people from all different ethnicities here. Community is what keeps us strong.”
Cards for Decolonization took a very different approach to community building, as a contemporary game. Based on the popular Cards Against Humanity, Cards for Decolonization takes an irreverent and comical approach to difficult issues. “It was made around the aspect of being in the company of humor for each other and for one another. We have cultural trauma, especially since we’re two generations removed from all of these things, so laughter is one way of coping. It brings up these themes in a way that we can reflect on them, laugh and build community,” said Gaskill.
This might just seem like some college students getting together and playing games, but it is also much more. “In Indigenous cultures, being part of a community is more than just people who are your relatives, it’s people who are there for you,” said Gaskill. “People who are there to support you and watch you grow in your culture and even beyond that community, people who are there to support you outside that culture, and still wanting to be there for you as a support system, as a place where you will feel accepted and you will know you know people and will feel loved. It’s a place that fosters growth for yourself.”