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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
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This site is dedicated to the Inuit Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. It is also home to The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog.
An educational computer game about Iñupiat culture
reviewed by Dmitry Kuznetsov
It's been a while since the time I played computer games. But I quite enjoy this Never Alone, even though I have to play the character of a little girl!! The controls are very simple and it is a very laid back game. It is certainly beautifully made, with great animation and environment. It is a very kind game, which isn't too common these days. Maybe not done exactly perfectly from the point of programming view, sometimes characters don't respond to the controls too well and things like that. But despite small technical bugs, I would say this game is made with a soul.
Never Alone is the story of a girl, Nasruk, who is on a journey to find people of the village who got into trouble. She faces the forces of nature that can either help or hinder her. She faces danger from wild animals like polar bears, and also some evil spirits. Helping her is her pet arctic fox together with some kind spirits. Parts of the story come from Iñupiat folklore. The scenes are beautiful and I really like the storytelling. The narration of the game is in native language with subtitles (there are ten language options) so you can actually understand what is said. Also, while you progress you are unlocking access to short videos that contain stories and interviews with Iñupiat people telling about their culture, lifestyle and beliefs. I have not yet seen dogs in the game itself, but there are some old black and white photos of dog teams available in these videos. What I have noticed in those old photos and cultural insight videos with dog teams, is that they use different type of sleds, not komatiks, but something more close to what they call a Nansen sled probably. And they also don't use the fan hitch but a side-by-side hitch.
Once a certain point of the game is reached another video is unlocked. The player can have a pause from the game and watch the video or can watch it anytime later. I prefer to complete the game to unlock all the videos as I really enjoyed them. I strongly believe if somebody familiar with computer games will sit and play without any breaks, he should be able to finish the game in five or six hours. But I am long gone from such intense playing and just play now and then for 15-20 minutes.
I had a short search on some online message boards where people interested in computer games share their opinions about games. Most reviews were good, even though most people found this game not very hard but also not so easy as it seems at first moments of the game play, which I agree with.
When the storytelling takes place, it is often accompanied by simple animation made similar to traditional Inuit art. Some reviews I read disliked that and wondered why the game’s developers didn't do a high quality modern animation. But if you will ask me, I think if the developers did those things in regular way done today, this game would have lost a great deal of its concept. Because when you hear Nasruk’s story and you hear the actual language and see that type of art, I believe it gives a better impression and imagination on how the storytelling was happening in reality. So far I can also add that at least some motives of the game truly correspond to some folklore and legends Iñupiat tell about in those videos that come in the game.
Iñupiat Sled dogs, Point Barrow, Alaska. Ernie Carter Photographs, 1939-1959;
UAF-2004-68-8; Archives, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Ed: Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa), was developed through a partnership between Cook Inlet Tribal Council and E-Line Media. Inspired by traditional Iñupiat folklore, stories and characters handed down over generations through traditional storytelling, Never Alone, is now available here for $14.99 USD. Watch a lovely introductory game trailer here and learn more about Never Alone here. There is much to explore and learn about Iñupiat culture on the Never Alone and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council websites.
A scientific study, “Mitochondrial diversity of Iñupiat people from the Alaskan North Slope provides evidence for the origins of the Paleo- and Neo-Eskimo peoples”, was published online April 17 2015 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The findings of genetic testing on Iñupiat now living in Alaska’s North Slope region has resulted in more knowledge about how the circumpolar north was populated over the past 5,000 years of migrations from Alaska across northern Canada and onto Greenland. Elements of the DNA of modern day Iñupiat were also found in samples extracted from ancient samples of both Neo and Paleo-Inuit across the Canadian Arctic. According to a Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois, USA) article by Erin Spain summarizing this research, “These findings support the archaeological model that the “peopling of the eastern Arctic” began in the North Slope, in an eastward migration from Alaska to Greenland. The research paper’s senior author, M. Geoffrey Hayes, commented, “Our study suggests that the Alaskan North Slope serves as the homeland for both of those groups, during two different migrations. We found DNA haplogroups of both ancient Paleo-Eskimos and Neo-Eskimos in Iñupiat people living in the North Slope today.” ”