North indigenous peoples to receive first ever board game in their native languages

North indigenous peoples to receive first ever board game in their native languages

February 17, 2023

In Taimyr, it has already been translated into Evenki and Dolgan, versions in Nganasan, Enets and Nenets will soon appear.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The first in Russia series of interactive board games Nomad Camp in 11 languages of the indigenous peoples of the North was transferred to remote villages in 15 regions of Russia.

According to Karina Sheifer, the project author, a field linguist, the Russian Academy of Sciences Linguistics Institute’s Small Languages Study and Preservation Laboratory’s employee, she came up with the project of the interactive board game Nomad Camp to study the disappearing languages of the peoples of the North in 2020.

“I had the idea of the board game for a long time. As a field linguist, I travel a lot on business trips in the north of Russia and see that there are few people among the indigenous peoples who know their native language. As a result, the designer Olesya Stetsenko and I created a series of games Nomad Camp in 11 languages for 15 regions of the North, Siberia and the Far East. The total circulation of the game was 4 450 sets”, said Karina Sheifer.

The game plot is built on the national culture of the peoples of the North, its acting heroes are animals living in the territory where one of the indigenous languages is spoken. The game can be played with two or up to 16 players. Each set contains a dictionary and 60 game cards.

The first board game was created in Evenki, later other languages were added, including Dolgan. Circulations of the game in one language or another range from 300 to 2500 thousand copies – depending on the requests of the tribal communities of the indigenous peoples.

The main task of the Nomad camp is to teach the native language of the national identity carriers, to preserve languages that are endangered. With the help of the game, you can start to learn the language from scratch, or you can, knowing the language, use it to develop communication skills.

The project authors plan to release Nomad Camp in the languages of all indigenous peoples, including the Nenets, Chukchi, Yakuts, Hanty, Komi, Tuvans, Tofalars and Northern Karelians. And already in 2023, games will be released in Nganasan and Forest Enets, as well as in Kildin, Sami and Mansi languages.

The games are handed over free of charge to educational and social institutions in areas densely populated by indigenous peoples, allocated to schools, kindergartens, libraries, ethnic centers, creative teams, tribal communities and large families. Part of the circulation is given to families leading a traditional nomadic lifestyle.

“Our experience has proven that in 90 percent of cases children do not know their native language at all. For most of the peoples of the North, the transmission of the language in the family from the oldest to the youngest stopped more than 30 years ago”, the expert explained.

In Evenkia, where the game was first received, it quickly became popular. According to the observations, children who did not know their native language at all, after the first game, begin to memorize simple words and phrases. Now the Taimyr Evenks and the Dolgans have got the opportunity to learn their native language in the game, soon the Nganasans and Enets will join them, and a little later – the Nenets people representatives will.

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Text: Victor Borodin Photo: Denis Kozhevnikov

February 17, 2023

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