Before colonizers, Indigenous Peoples had never experienced smallpox, measles or flu. The viruses tore through the continent, killing an estimated 90% of Indigenous Peoples. (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies)
The slogan “We Are Still Here,” which many Indigenous activists have adopted has always felt incomplete, we are still here because our ancestors resisted, because they fought back and forward. That means we also have a sacred responsibility to uphold those struggles and carry them forward.
Press Release: Announcing Burn the Fort, a Diné Designed Board Game of Indigenous Resistance
For Immediate Release
July 26, 2023
Announcing Burn the Fort, a Diné Designed Board Game of Indigenous Resistance
Crowdfunding campaign is live on Gamefound
Occupied Kinłani (Flagstaff, AZ) — A new independent board game featuring Indigenous resistance is now crowdfunding to cover manufacturing costs. Burn the Fort is a semi-cooperative game designed by Diné artist, musician, filmmaker, organizer, and author Klee Benally.
In Burn the Fort, colonizers have built a military fortress and are invading your lands. 2-4 players each take the role of a different historic warrior fighting to stop the invasion. Players must prevent wagons from bringing supplies to the fort and burn it to the ground before the train, which acts as a game timer, reaches the Golden Spike. Players can choose how much they wish to work together while taking turns playing cards, trading, battling wagons, and gathering necessary tokens to win the game. With each wagon that reaches the fort the train moves forward, and if it reaches the Golden Spike everyone loses.
Components and cards are steeped in history with facts, trivia, and bios of historic Indigenous warriors, the game also uses traditional Diné Stick dice.
“I wanted to design a game that felt familiar to those who grew up playing board games, but one that was also familiar to those who grew up playing traditional cultural games,” says Klee Benally, the artist and designer of the game, “Some of the game mechanics may feel contradictory and I wanted to embrace that dynamic. It’s my first game so I’m sure I’ve made mistakes, but from the artwork to the gameplay, every aspect of the design is very intentional.”
“Games can be powerful storytelling and teaching tools” says Benally. “Indigenous Peoples have played games rooted in ceremony since time immemorial. I’ve always loved table top games, but I never found one that I personally connected to. Indigenous Peoples and resistance are more often portrayed as threats to the heroic settler colonizers or when we’re the occasional protagonist, we are either victims or grossly romanticized” Benally explains.
Benally continues, “Nearly every game available on the shelf today is rooted in colonialism and resource exploitation, I wanted to offer an alternative and challenge those narratives. This game focuses on the time period of the so-called ‘Indian wars’ to explore the history and offer an engaging and fun way of deepening our understandings of those times. History is an ongoing conflict of narratives, the history written by colonizers is obviously going to be very different than the narratives and accounts of those who have resisted colonization. For some people this will be just another table top game, for others, and this is my intention, it can be one small way to engage and build cultures of resistance and liberation”.
The game has been in development for six years but Benally took a break during the pandemic to focus on organizing with Kinłani Mutual Aid. Benally says, “After the beginning of pandemic, as people were forced to stay at home due to the severity of the virus, there was also a renewed interest in board games. As I was making deliveries and coordinating supplies, I really was motivated to focus on the game as an alternative for people instead of just watching TV. Additionally, I have to express gratitude for this project to Ariel Celeste and Jacob, without their critical input this game would not be what it is. I am also forever grateful to my supporters on Patreon and all the play testers who made this game possible.”
Burn the Fort is now on Gamefound, a premiere crowdfunding site for board games, where 70% of its goal was raised in just three days. If the campaign reaches its “stretch goal,” Benally will use additional funds to distribute free copies to Indigenous community groups and schools. Eventually Benally intends to create a complementary lesson plan exploring the theme of the game that can be taught in schools.
Burn the Fort is now available as a crowdfunding reward for a pledge of $40. The crowdfunding campaign ends on August 22nd, 2023. After the crowdfunding campaign is complete it will be available sometime in the fall online and in select stores at a retail price of $45. You can view and support the campaign here: https://gamefound.com/projects/indigenousaction/burn-the-fort
Burn the Fort is for 2 – 4 players, ages 14 and older and takes approximately 60-90 minutes to play. It includes 5 game board pieces, 6 player cards, 1 Fort point tracker, 69 Draw cards, 40 Colonizer cards, 6 Victory cards, 5 US General tokens, 4 Reference cards, 48 Fire tokens, 40 Wagon tokens, 12 Arrowhead tokens, 4 Alliance tokens, 1 Colonizer token, 1 Wooden train token, 1 Arrowhead token bag, 3 Wooden Stick dice, 2 Colonizer dice, and 1 twenty-two page game guide.
For more information visit: www.burnthefort.com.
About the publisher
Indigenous Action (IA/originally Indigenous Action Media) was founded on August 25th, 2001 to provide strategic communications and direct action support for Indigenous sacred lands defense. We are a radical autonomous crew of anti-colonial & anti-capitalist Indigenous media makers, designers, artists, writers & agitators that work together on a project by project basis for liberation for Mother Earth and all her beings. www.indigenousaction.org
UPDATED: How to Burn American & Canadian Flags
We’ve updated this poster and included a version for our relatives in so-called Canada!
The so-called “United States” and KKKanadian flags represent Indigenous genocide, African slavery, ecocide, & ongoing imperialist aggression throughout the world. When symbols are burned & monuments destroyed, the ideas & institutions that they represent become diminished. Agitative propaganda (agitprop) can inspire & build morale, it can also provoke strong emotional responses from those who maintain allegiance to such symbols.
As fascists use their colonial law of “free speech” to rally & dehumanize, we burn
their symbols & reveal their hypocrisies. By attacking symbols of colonialism, white supremacy, cis-heteropatriarchy, fascism, & capitalism, we break down the legitimacy of their power & loosen their death grip on our humanity.
Liberate a flag from a local fascist or corporate store. 100% cotton flags are easiest to light & don’t emit toxic fumes like nylon ones. Burning nylon flags also can stick to clothes, skin, and any surface so they are best left to burn on the ground or affixed to a pole.
Lighters and matches are easy to carry. Any source of ignition will do. Road flares or a spray paint with a lighter held up to the nozzle are excellent ways to ensure good & quick ignition.
A flammable accelerant such as lighter fluid is highly recommended. We do not recommend using gasoline as it is extremely volatile. Do not douse the entire flag, just a small section & light away from your body. Most flags will not ignite immediately & can take time to start burning well. If no accelerants are available fold a couple of ends of the flag onto itself & hold your matches or lighter to the material until a good flame starts.
As flag burning is highly symbolic, keep in mind the visual narrative that your location may provide i.e. a monument, a political office, etc. The idea is to maximize the effect of your action, so even significant dates can enhance the overall impact. Be aware of your surroundings to make sure unintended fires are not started ;).
While burning the so-called US flag is considered “protected speech” you may want to consider researching local settler colonial laws.
There are no laws against burning the KKKanadian flag. It is NOT a criminal action, under the Canadian Criminal Code. It is considered a protected form of expression under the “Charter of Rights And Freedoms.”
In some instances folx in the “US” have faced charges of “reckless burning.” If the burning is held in a “private” area certain security concerns may not be warranted. Perhaps the biggest threats are from fascists & reactionary liberals aka movement police (usually the same thing). Be situationally aware of these possible threats on the ground & online. Serious doxxing of flag burners has occurred in some areas with some of those identified facing death threats & even losing their jobs. Mask up & cover anything that can identify you (tattoos, piercings, hair, etc). Make sure any documentation especially social media can’t be used to identify you (don’t tag yourself in the pics).
American and KKKanadian flags can be ripped into pieces to make Molotov cocktails. Mix one part gasoline to one part motor oil in a glass bottle. Plug with cloth or cap & secure cloth to top by tying, duct tape, etc. Extremely dangerous *for educational purposes only*.
“Decolonize” your flag burning by using a traditional hand drill. Spin a wooden drill against a wood board with your bare hands. Use the ember to start a fire & then hold flag over flames until you achieve ignition.
ICWA & Continued Legislation of Indigenous Existence
As many celebrate the defense of ICWA, we also must recognize the colonial violence that has demanded & produced it.
ICWA was passed in 1978 due to the rampant genocidal white christian driven legal practice of taking Indigenous children from their homes and placing them with white christian families. The law was created to resolve a problem colonialism created. The settler colonial state didn’t become interested in “keeping Indigenous children with their Tribes” until it was assured that those children would be passively assimilated into its “civilized” order.
Through laws like ICWA, the State continues to legislate and enforce Indigenous existence.
White families stealing Indigenous children should be a non-issue. That any argument for justification for keeping Indigenous children with their peoples is occurring is part of the larger issue of white supremacy, cis-heteronormativity, and Indigenous genocide.
Before ICWA was enacted in 1978:
– 25%–35% of all Native children were being removed from their homes;
– of these, 85% were placed outside of their families and communities—even when fit and willing relatives were available.
– Today, Native families are 4x more likely to have their children removed and placed in foster care than their White counterparts.
(facts from https://www.nicwa.org/about-icwa)
Before 1492 Indigenous children weren’t stolen by colonizing predators.
While ICWA is celebrated as an affirmation of Indigenous sovereignty, in actuality it affirms congressional power to regulate commerce (The Commerce Clause) with Indigenous Peoples and plenary power over “Indian affairs.” A plenary power or plenary authority is a complete and absolute power to take action on a particular issue, with no limitations.
The legal battle over ICWA erases Indigenous children who are not from federally recognized tribes, border communities, & migrants doesn’t address issues of dis-enrollment. Particularly as ICWA specifically “sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving an Indian child who is a member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe.” ICWA reinforces “Indian” citizenship policies that some Tribal governments have used to exclude mixed race descendants. Regardless of ICWA, child theft still occurs within the foster care system, where Indigenous youth still are most likely to end up.
The discourse around ICWA is also inherently cis-heteronormative as it doesn’t support queer & two-spirit family formations. ICWA defines Indian child as “any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either (a) a member of an Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an Indian tribe…”
What justice can we expect from a colonial system that also maintains anti-Indigenous laws sanctioning desecration of sacred lands and attacks bodily autonomy?
Are our cultures and communities so desperate and broken that we celebrate that colonizers can determine if our children belong with us? The apparent “necessity” of ICWA demonstrates the fallacy of colonial laws and the predatory white supremacist violence that constantly looms outside our homes.
That colonial laws are required to stop white people from outright stealing Indigenous babies is the result of a much deeper systemic problem than laws like ICWA can address.
Many of our families & homes are broken due to colonization, more colonial laws won’t fix that.
What are culturally-rooted non-state based solutions to keeping Indigenous children with our families?
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