As the 2020 Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Heritage Awards have been cancelled due to COVID-19, we have been catching up with past winners throughout the month of October. In 2019, the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society (SAS) took home the Public Outreach award for, “Trappers and Traders: A Fur Trade Card Game.” Here, we asked Tomasin Playford, Executive Director of the SAS a few questions about the game, and learn why the game is a catalyst for important learning and awareness.

Q: Since winning the 2019 Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Heritage Award for Public Outreach, can you give us an update of the game? Do you continue to use it in your programming and sell it online?

A: Yes and yes! Because our award was November of 2019 – a lot of time hasn’t passed, and it’s been such an unusual situation with the pandemic, but yes, we continue to sell the game through our online store – the Den of Antiquity. We are also just a few words away from having the scorepads translated into both Plains Cree and Michif. Once that’s complete, like the French version, they too will be available for a free download off our website. We continue to integrate the game into our regular programming activities.

Q: What originally motivated the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society to create the Trappers and Traders game?

A: I really do love how the game came to be. One of our core programs is the delivery of public field digs as a way for people to actively participate in archaeology as it’s one of the best methods of helping them understand archaeological goals and methods. Starting in 2008, the SAS initiated a school component of our public digs. Then, we were working at what is believed to be the Hudson Bay Company fur trade post known as South Branch House which was occupied between 1786-1794. After two field-seasons, the past Executive Director, Talina Cyr-Steenkamp and one of the summer students, Karmen Vanderzwan wanted to find a way for the kids to make the connection between the artifacts they were finding, and the people who made and used them. One of our challenges is showing how archaeology isn’t simply a treasure hunt – it’s not about finding cool things. It really is about understanding how people lived by looking at their material culture, or the stuff left behind. They came up with the idea of the game to do just that. Trading cards represented the material culture of four different groups who would have been present at the post during it’s occupation; First Nations, the Metis Nation, the Hudson Bay trading company and their competition, the Northwest trading company. Each group then had to trade their items with the others for a list of needed items. The game was a hit. Students loved it – and teachers began asking where they could get so our response was to write out instructions and post them on our website but we found was that teachers really wanted a finished product.

Q: Why do you think it is important for kids to play this game? What do they get out of it?

A: First of all  - it’s fun! Kids love this game. Its social, it’s interactive, it’s cooperative but it’s also competitive. Isn’t that the best way to learn? Ultimately, it is a learning tool. First, there’s the archaeological teachings – relating material culture to groups of people and learning the different material cultures of those groups. Then there is the act of trading, strategizing, communicating, negotiating. But some of the deeper lessons are around decolonizing the fur trade narrative. People have been told that Europeans came here and traded with the First Nations – the First Nations wanted European goods like metal implements and guns because they were better. The game shows how the traders would not have been able to survive if it wasn’t for the items – often perishable like meat, and hides – offered by the First Nations. The game is also a catalyst to have conversations with students about subjects like colonization, world views, Indigenous-Crown relationships, Treaties etc. The teacher’s guide provides some conversation starters as well as some game variations than can be utilized to showcase historical events.

Q: In what way does the game impart living heritage to players?

A: The game transmits living heritage in several ways. First, it brings to life the static, tangible objects of the past. It also brings that past to life. It shows how these objects were made, used, and traded by people who may have living descendants here today. As archaeologists, we classify these tangible items as artifacts, and they are usually regulated to the past, but the game demonstrates that many items continue to be made, used and traded today. Finally, there is the language component. Each trading card includes the Cree, Michif, French and English word for the item. The cards can be used for language learning. It also showcases the diversity of cultures. If someone was living here two to three hundred year ago, speaking only English wouldn’t have been very useful. This promotes awareness and respect. Language connects to identity and under UNDRIP, language preservation is a right of Indigenous people.

Q: What are your plans for the game going forward?

A:  Going forward, we would love to see the game translated into more languages! Right now we are just waiting on the translation of a few more words and then we will have the score-pads in Michif and Cree. Like the French versions, these will be available for a free download off our website. We are also always looking for new ways to use and play the game that we can add to our Teacher’s Guide.

Watch our video inverview with Tomasin!

To purchase the game visit their online store, the Den of Antiquity.

Check out the Teacher’s Guide!