Culture Coded: 10 Apps You Can Use to Learn About Aboriginal Culture

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For Canada’s Indigenous populations, language is more than just a means to express one’s inner thoughts. Language is cultural, political, and unifying. It communicates ideas but also works to establish communities.

For centuries there had been repeated attempts to suppress the voices of Indigenous populations, disempowering their communities by cutting them off from their languages, traditions, and culture.

However, with the advent of new technologies that are affordable and accessible, Indigenous languages are being taught and preserved, making it easier to learn Canada’s oldest languages. With these new tools, the voices of Indigenous peoples are being heard, and important traditions are being preserved for the next generation.

Many Indigenous communities are turning to apps to preserve and disseminate their unique cultural traditions and languages. The apps being used to achieve this goal are proving equally as diverse. There are apps for children, linguists, historians, and casual browsers, all designed to make Indigenous languages accessible and guided by the intention to raise awareness.

If you identify as an Aboriginal person or are looking to educate yourself regarding Indigenous cultures and languages, we’ve collected a list of ten informative apps available for Apple or Android.

History

1. 100 Years of Loss

The Legacy of Hope Foundation launched the app “100 Years of Loss” to raise awareness surrounding the history of Canadian Residential Schools, institutions that from the 1830s to 1990s attempted to assimilate Aboriginal children into Western Culture by depriving them of their native language and cultural traditions. By telling the stories of those who were and continue to be affected by these institutions, the Legacy of Hope Foundation, an Aboriginal charitable organization, aspires to support and heal those victimized a by the school system by connecting Aboriginal peoples to one another and to non-Aboriginal peoples. A key aim of the app is to increase awareness by focusing on the ongoing intergenerational impacts of Residential Schools.

2. Forgotten Métis

Similar to the “100 Years of Loss” platform, “Forgotten Métis” presents a virtual exhibition of the history of Métis children and Residential Schools. The app traces the history of the fur trade within Canada and its detrimental affects on Indigenous communities. In many of these examples, Europeans and Aboriginal peoples formed relationships producing children considered to be of dual-cultural descent: the Métis. According to its creators, “This project documents and gives voice to the experiences of the many Métis children who attend these schools and explores Métis identity, cultural reclamation, and healing.”

3. First Story Toronto

“First Story Toronto” is an educational app designed by the Toronto Native Community History Project in partnership with the Native Canadian Centre and Centre for Community Mapping. Through this app, users can explore the city of Toronto and be informed on Indigenous contributions to the city, in addition to informing Canadians on upcoming cultural events taking place within Toronto. This ongoing project features archival photographs, documents, audio and video clips to lend a virtual presence to Aboriginal communities and cultures.

Culture

4. Native American Encyclopedia

This extensive and popular database aims to put together the most comprehensive collection of facts regarding Indigenous history and culture. According to their site, “The Native American Encyclopedia is here to; Honour our Elders, Inspire our Youth, Document our History & Share our Culture.” This extensive app spans the histories of Native Americans, American Indians, Métis, Inuit, First Nations, Aboriginal Peoples, and other communities across North America. With a database of over 10,000 articles, this app provides insight into a wide range of Indigenous issues past and present.

5. ACCI (Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute)

The Quebec Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute is a museum that showcases the culture and history of the James Bay Cree populations. Among the many features of the app are virtual tours, exhibition artifacts, videos, and even a scanner that uses your phone’s camera to identify certain artifacts and reveal its history (for those visiting the ACCI in person). The audio recounts the histories of Cree peoples through interviews with First Nation individuals. Additionally, the virtual exhibition on the app features artifacts ranging from clothing and accessories to ceremonial and spiritual materials and tools and transportation. Users may select an artifact and inspect it using zoom and 360 degree rotation tools. Viewers can also read a description of the item and learn of its cultural and symbolic significance to Cree communities.

6. PowWows.com

This lifestyle app works in synchrony with information available on PowWows.com and offers a portal into First Nation history, culture, and life. In addition to an extensive PowWow calendar of events, the app features forums for discussion, relevant articles, news, photos, videos, and even a trading post. With so many features, PowWows.com attracts a substantial amount of users who view the app almost as a community and a means to spread First Nation traditions. One may even stream webcasts of live pow wows occurring across North America!

7. First Nations Canadian Native Aboriginal Tribes

This application is more of a directory than the apps listed above. Through First Nation Canadian Tribes, you can access a database that includes the contact information, websites and maps for over 633 tribes. With over 442 Canadian cities, there is much to be explored!

Languages

8. Ojibway

This app blends culture, history, and language in a way to raise awareness of the unique traditions of the Ojibway communities. It also features maps to trace ancestral lands and its associated histories. Famous Ojibway individuals are recognized, as are Ojibways involved in arts, athletics, music, and scholarship. Through this app you may listen to high quality audio and use the spoken word element in order to learn the proper pronunciation of common words and phrases.

9. Navajo Clans: Native Language

For those interested in learning the fundamentals to the Navajo language, this app is a perfect starting point. It provides an accurate and extensive database through which users may explore the intricacies of this historic language. Containing data on over 80 Navajo clans, this app makes for an excellent educational tool for anyone wishing to learn more about traditional Navajo culture.

10. Michif To Go

With over 11,500 translations, this application allows individuals to search English words in order to discover their Michif translations. “Michif To Go” ensures that the unique culture and linguistic traditions of the Metis people is preserved and shared. As Michif is an oral language (there is no orthography or standard spelling system), the app provides audio with translations in the Western alphabet.

This list of apps can familiarize you with Indigenous cultures, but it is by no means exhaustive! However, we hope it provides a starting point for those who want to use modern technology as a means to discover and uncover traditions of the past, specifically the cultures and language of Canada’s Indigenous communities.

In honour of National Aboriginal Week, take a look at TalentEgg’s Aboriginal Career Guide!

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About the author

Madison Burns is a Content Marketing Intern at TalentEgg and a student at the University of Toronto. She double majors in Communication, Culture and Information and Professional Writing Communications. She is also earning a Certificate in Digital Communications at Sheridan College. When she's not studying, you’ll find her gaming online or taking an absurd amount of photos for Instagram of her Australian Shepard, Crosby. Connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Instagram @madi5on!