Dallas Flett-Wapash is new to what he does but is already full of promising ideas. Flett-Wapash, from Keeseekoose First Nation but currently lives in Brandon, MB, works as a game designer as well as an interactive artist.
“It’s very fulfilling. And so if you’re passionate about video games, then that makes that time just pass by a lot faster. It doesn’t feel like work. And it’s really fun,” said Flett-Wapash.
Flett-Wapash was motivated to make video games when he was a kid, because they would make him feel emotions. As he got older he noticed the lack of Indigenous video games in mainstream or Indigenous characters in a “self-determined way.”
“Part of my ambition is to fill some of that gap myself, but also to aid others in believing they can do the same,” said Flett-Wapash.
When he was 10, he had the ambition to make games but not the know how, and says his training was informal and self-driven.
He spent a lot of time after school with a camera shooting video in his home and would edit the video on his computer, learning the process by using Google and finding free software he could use for his craft.
When he was in grade 12, outreach programs from various cities came to Norway House where he was at the time and noticed Assiniboine College in Brandon.
They were advertising a program that would teach students about graphic design and web design. Flett-Wapash wasn’t passionate about web design, but figured there were other things he could still learn within the program.
“While I was studying there, I was able to delve into game design in these self-driven projects, which I’m ultimately super grateful for, because they could have just stuck to the status quo,” said Flett-Wapash.
After studying there, he went to Brandon University to study fine arts and strengthened his design skills alongside his development abilities.
He is currently working on a game where the player plays as a piece of bannock on a “cartoony adventure” with a sidekick and through the process of the game the user would also learn an Indigenous language.
It’s something he’s still working on, and will continue to do so for the next year or two depending on funding and other things. He hopes to release it on something more accessible to Indigenous people.
“I don’t want to necessarily divide people by what console they have, but something that I do see that a lot of Indigenous children have is a lot of them have these phones to play games on or iPads to watch YouTube videos on and stuff,” said Flett-Wapash.
For students leaving their community, he says there will be a mix of pain and freedom given to you, but there are ways to alleviate the pain and managing the freedom.
He lived with his family in Norway House Cree Nation, but moved away from his family to study in Brandon. A lot of Flett-Wapash’s pain came from not hearing his mother or brother talk as much as he was used to hearing them in his house. The sudden change made a bit of a difference and says the silence was “seizing” and made him not want to do things.
“I think a proactive approach would be putting yourself out there and maybe finding people who are in similar situations that you both can come out stronger from it,” said Flett-Wapash.
He also thinks one of the most powerful things one can do when leaving their community is to consider what the goal is for leaving, whether it be to go and come back with a skillset the community needs or even just to have a voice heard.
“I think just internalizing that and understanding what it is it can be a good motivation for when you get down, when you’re outside of your community.”
The biggest obstacle he faced was learning to become independent and learning to live without his family by his side. It was personable for him because he spent a lot of time with his family, and even more so before he moved away from the community.
He navigated that by finding like-minded friends and playing games with them, and scheduled calls with his family so he would still be talking to them on a regular basis.
And if there were one thing he could tell his younger self, it would be there is always a solution to a problem.
“You need to find the best way to identify that problem, verbalize it. And don’t be afraid to seek help and finding the solution to that problem.”
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program, with funding provided by the RBC Foundation in support of
RBC Future Launch.