Indigenous virtual reality company looking for knowledge keepers, storytellers, artists to promote culture

A virtual reality company based in Fort William First Nation in Ontario that is using their technical know-how to promote Indigenous cultures.

Partnering with Uber and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), ORIGIN is hosting a competition called Share Your Roots, looking for more people to share their culture.

The company started out as an interactive way for kids to learn more about jobs, primarily in the trades industry.

ORIGIN owner Melissa Hardy-Giles says the company realized the tech could be used for everyone to learn about Indigenous culture.

“We realized the power of our reach and that’s when we decided to launch a cultural library so at the same time, whoever has our head sets and who has subscribed to our immersive link library will also be educated and have the opportunity to be educated in how diverse our culture is,” she said.

The company is looking for Indigenous knowledge keepers, artists, and storytellers to share their knowledge.

There are four prizes of $35,000 dollars each and each winner will get a personalized virtual reality experience that will be a part of the ORIGIN library. Along with the money, winners will also receive a one year membership to CCAB.

The library includes both career and cultural experiences including learning how to be a boilermaker, electrician, and millwright among other careers. On the cultural side, experiences include fancy shawl dance, scraping a moose hide and smudging with medicines just to name a few.

“I just believe that everyone has a story, Indigenous and non and as an Indigenous person and being able to kind of lead this, lead during this time of being able to be the company to share our stories from our Indigenous people we’re very honoured, we’re really excited,” said Hardy-Giles, who is from Red Rock Indian Band in Ontario.

ORIGIN may be based in Ontario, but they are reaching communities throughout the country. In total, they have worked with 85 communities doing a variety of tasks ranging from a simple consultation to bringing their VR experience to the communities.

“We just know how Indigenous people, and I don’t think I realized myself,  how diverse our culture was until I started this journey and I think it’s so important that we all realize that Indigenous and non Indigenous people across Canada, how diverse our culture is,” she said.

Hardy-Giles said the cultural side of ORIGIN is not business generated, rather they use the profits from their career experiences to fund the cultural experiences, and that one day she hopes ORIGIN can become international and have VR experiences from around the world from various Indigenous cultures.

The deadline for submissions into Share Your Roots is April 5.

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