September 04, 2007

The Coushatta Heritage Center

An Indian Nation Preserves Its Heritage With a Magic JoystickEli recently helped test a prototype 3-D video game for the museum, in which players are able to explore a virtual world in order to experience how members of the Coushatta Tribe traditionally interacted with their environment and used handmade tools to survive.

Where a typical video game might feature a European-looking spaceman running around on an alien planet with a laser gun, this game prototype featured a Coushatta hero with darker skin and a build more like a traditional member of the tribe, with a sinewy and slightly muscular upper body and legs. True to tribal history, the character carried a bow and arrow, as well as a blowgun to hunt small animals. His game-play environment was modeled after the traditional Coushatta forests, and he received instructions in the game from a computerized elder who asked him to collect firewood for warmth and pine needles to weave baskets.
What else will the museum include?Video games won't be the only unique aspect of the museum. Red Knight is also designing an immersive theater, which will feature computerized sound effects and "smell cartridges" that will allow visitors to sense and feel like they've walked into the Coushatta woods in the evening. A timeline wall will allow visitors to "interact with history"--by sliding a display monitor along the wall, they will able to see and hear the tribe's history. Several Kosati language programs will be available, and basket-making games also will allow visitors to make their own virtual Coushatta basket.

The center, according to Ms. Langley, will also include interactive and physical exhibits exploring the tribe's prophecies and stories from their more than 500-year history. The Kosati language will be integrated into all exhibits, and the Heritage Center will also function as a tribal library, archive, and language learning center for Coushatta tribal members.

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