After more than a year of collaboration with Microsoft Canada, Minecraft: Education Edition, and the Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) announce the release of Manito Ahbee Aki, the first Minecraft teaching resource of its kind in the world, that honours, celebrates and explores the Manitoba Anishinaabe community.
Players in Manito Ahbee Aki, which translates to “the place where the Creator sits” in English, are transported to Manito Ahbee, a site located in Manitoba’s western Whiteshell area, before European contact in North America.
“In the true spirit and intent of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, this project gives students in our schools and around the world an opportunity to learn and develop a deeper understanding about an Indigenous nation in Canada,” said Christian Michalik.
To create an authentic experience, members of the LRSD Indigenous Council of Grandmothers and Grandfathers (ICGG) along with Frank Deer, LRSD Scholar in Residence, and Knowledge Keepers from the Manitoba Anishinaabe community, guided and informed the development of the project. After more than 13 months of development with stakeholders located in Canada, the United States and Australia, Manito Ahbee Aki gives players the opportunity to explore a fun and interactive world while gaining insight into Indigenous teachings and perspectives.
“Seeing my People and our ways of knowing and being captured in this game and having our traditions and culture told in a good way makes me very proud,” said Chickadee Richards, a member of the LRSD ICGG and a key contributor to the project. “I am one of the non-player characters in the game who students will speak to for information that will help them explore and understand the Anishinaabe world we’ve built for them. This is the first-time students will be able to interact with an authentic representation of our Peoples history and way of life.”
Minecraft: Education Edition is a game-based learning platform that helps build key 21s century skills such as coding and creative problem solving, which is why several teachers in LRSD use the platform as a way to help students explore learning on a variety of topics. Microsoft offers free access to Microsoft 365 and Teams for Education to schools as part of the company’s ongoing support for educators, especially during remote and hybrid learning. Today, more than 200 million students, faculty, institutional leaders and teachers are actively using Microsoft Education.
“As an Indigenous educator and Indigenous parent, there aren’t a lot of resources that show our people, culture and practices in a respectful way—but this game changes that,” said Bobbie-Jo Leclair, LRSD Itinerant Indigenous Education Coordinator and Manito Ahbee Aki consultant. “Not only will this game inspire and engage Indigenous students who don’t see themselves reflected in games, it provides an opportunity for all people to learn how Anishinaabe people respected the earth and all living things.”
The Anishinaabe digital world includes flora, fauna and locations from Manitoba that were specially created for this world and do not exist in any other Minecraft platform. All non-player characters (NPC) in the game are modelled after members of LRSD’s ICGG, LRSD educators and Knowledge Keepers.
LRSD is committed to creating four additional Indigenous Minecraft worlds for each of Indigenous Peoples in Manitoba that includes Cree, Dene, Oji-Cree, Ojibwe and Dakota.
“We are honoured to be part of this project that was spearheaded by LRSD and the Anishinaabe community but will benefit students around the world. Manito Ahbee Aki is an excellent example of how we can educate about Indigenous cultures in ways that are engaging and relevant for 21st century students,” said Marc Seaman, General Manager, Education, Microsoft Canada. “Microsoft has long been committed to empowering students and educators with technology and we hope to see school divisions across the country follow LRDS’s lead with innovative solutions like this one.”
In the coming weeks, the Manito Ahbee Aki Minecraft world will be available on the Minecraft: Education Edition website for schools around the world to download for free and explore.
LRSD was established in 2002 after the amalgamation of the St. Boniface and St. Vital School Division. LRSD is in the southeast quadrant of Winnipeg and serves close to 15,600 students across 40 schools with a staff of more than 2,100. The LRSD mission is to provide a safe, inclusive, and engaging environment, where personal and collective learning are valued, and each one of us reaches our full potential.