yəhaw̓ at Hedreen Gallery | December 1, 2018 - March 3, 2019

Hedreen Gallery hosted an interactive gaming hub in which artist Elizabeth LaPensée (Anishinaabe from Baawaating, Métis, settler-Irish) rewires the architecture of contemporary gaming imaginations in ways that center, iterate and mainstream Indigenous ways of knowing.

Heart of the Game highlights the work of Elizabeth LaPensée (Ph.D.), a prolific artist, writer, designer and scholar who foregrounds Indigenous self-determination and Indigenous sovereignty through game design, game development, and gameplay. Featuring a variety of games in both digital and non-digital platforms, this exhibition celebrates LaPensée's many innovative roles and radical interventions in game design, including producing and designing original game architecture, writing backdrops for game-play, organizing teams of Indigenous writers for collaborative game development, producing original artwork and more. In addition to learning about the design and context of a wide range of LaPensée’s games, gallery visitors will have the opportunity to play the side-scroller arcade game Thunderbird Strike, i-pad singing game Honour Water, table-top role-playing game Dialect and several test levels from When Rivers Were Trails, an Indigenous take on Oregon Trail, which will be released in early 2019.  

Heart of the Game 
is a satellite exhibition in collaboration with yəhaw̓; an open call exhibition featuring over 200 Indigenous creatives opening at Seattle’s King Street Station in 2019. For full information and events listings: www.yehawshow.com

a viewer enters exhibition of game design artwork at Hedreen Gallery

Elizabeth LaPensée, heart of the game, in partnership with yǝha̛w, as installed at Hedreen Gallery. Winter 2018-19.

Heart of the Game exhibition including artwork on video projection and tv monitors installed at Hedreen Gallery

Elizabeth LaPensée

When Rivers Were Trails

art by Weshoyot Alvitre, music by Supaman

Developed in collaboration with The Indian Land Tenure Foundation, Lessons of Our Land

Photo by Joe Freeman Jr. 


Artworks by Elizabeth LaPensée installed on computer, iPad, and tv at Hedreen Gallery

Elizabeth LaPensée

Left: Coyote Quest

Collaborators: Elizabeth LaPensée, Loretta Todd, Nelson Dedos Garcia, Mob Bounce  

Right: Thunderbird Strike (on iPad and tv monitor)

Collaborators: Elizabeth LaPensée, Adrian Cheater & Aubrey Jane Scott, NÀHGĄ a.k.a. Casey Koyczan 

Photo by Joe Freeman Jr. 

Artwork by Elizabeth LaPensée installed on tv monitors, iPad at Hedreen Gallery

Elizabeth LaPensée

L: Thunderbird Strikeby LaPensée, A. Cheater & A. Jane Scott, NÀHGĄ, M: Invaders, by LaPensée, S. Paul Judd, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, R: The Gift of Food, by LaPensée, E. Krohn, R. Fernandes, A. Brulé, Northwest Indian College 

Photo by Joe Freeman Jr. 

Artworks by Elizabeth LaPensée and collaborators installed on computer, iPad, and tv monitor at Hedreen Gallery

Elizabeth LaPensée

Installation View: Left to Right: Coyote Quest, Thunderbird StrikeInvaders, The Gift of Food, Dialect

games by E. LaPensée and collaborators

Photo by Joe Freeman Jr. 

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Elizabeth LaPensée

Left: Honour Water, by LaPensée, Oshkii Giizhik Singers, S. M. Day, Pinnguaq

Middle: Thunderbird Strikeby LaPensée, A. Cheater & A. Jane Scott, NÀHGĄ

Photo by Joe Freeman Jr. 

Artist Bio

Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. is an award-winning designer, writer, artist, and researcher who creates and studies Indigenous-led media such as games and comics. She is Anishinaabe from Baawaating with relations at Bay Mills Indian Community, Métis named for Elizabeth Morris, and settler-Irish. She is an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures at Michigan State University. She is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow

Most recently, she designed and created art for Thunderbird Strike (2017), a lightning-searing side-scroller game which won Best Digital Media at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. She also designed and created art for Honour Water (2016), an Anishinaabe singing game for healing the water. Her work also includes analog games, such as The Gift of Food (2014), a board game about Northwest Native traditional foods.

She is co-editor of the comic collections Deer Woman: An Anthology (2017) and Sovereign Traces Volume 1: Not (Just) (An)Other (2018) and editor of Sovereign Traces Volume 2: Relational Constellation (2019).

The title of this exhibition is a quote from a published conversation between Elizabeth LaPensée and Vicki Moulder in 2017

Vicki Moulder: 

When you use the phrase heart of the game, are you referring to the core philosophy?
I’m curious to know if the heart of the game informs the game mechanics, and if so, how?

Elizabeth LaPensée:

Both! Ways of knowing and game mechanics always inform one another in anything I work on.
In Techno Medicine Wheel, the heart of the game involves finding and tending to plant medicines.
How that unfolds can forever iterate, but the core experience of reinforcing closeness with plants will always remain.

 *The banner image at the top of this page features artwork by Carol Rashawnna Williams (2019), Romson Regarde Bustillo (2019), Sanctuary City Project (2019-20), and E.T. Russian (2019-20).


Hedreen Gallery

Lee Center for the Arts (CNFA)

Open Wednesday through Saturday from 1-6pm