Haskell Indian Nations University Indian Country Journalism News

Haskell English Professor Designs Native American Influenced Board Game by Damon Peak

Over the course of 3 years, Haskell University English Professor Smokey McKinney has molded a simple creative idea into a board game called “Nyew Jigwe’k”, or Four Thunders as translated in English.

Being a part of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, he says his board game draws inspiration from the Potawatomi culture and creation stories he grew up with, stating, “It’s based on the idea of balance and circularity, things having a life cycle and coming back around, kind of like the four directions and the medicine wheel.”

Each game-piece being white, red, yellow, and black, they occupy a continually expanding and contracting gameboard that is reminiscent of Potawatomi stories of the expansion and eventual reduction of the world we live in. This always changing gameboard is unique compared to other games. Smokey says, “This is not something I have seen anybody else do”, while also further revealing that he loves to play a French game called Carcassonne, which is where he drew his size-changing game board inspiration from. After many trials with game-makers and students, Four Thunders is at its 7th version.

Haskell University Student and Haskell Band President Rain Charger was one of the numerous students that got to experience a play-through of the game. “I really think casual gamers who just play Monopoly and other similar games would like it… It could even appeal to people like me because I usually play more intense games like Magic the Gathering, or Dungeons & Dragons” explains Rain Charger.

He also adds that he wouldn’t mind playing the game again real soon. Professor McKinney is also excited as he makes plans to launch the game, stating that he “is just working out the small details”, and that he is done making any big changes to his game that are “global”. McKinney plans to start a Kick starter Fund very soon and is looking forward to promoting the game to people everywhere. “I think this game can appeal to both a Native American and a non-Native American audience”, stated McKinney. Being a part of a group called Kansas City Game Designers, he says he has been getting a lot of positive feedback. This group has had success in publishing board games before, as they have put out other board games such as “Mow Money” and “Transylvania”. In being involved with this group of like-minded game makers who also enjoy making board games as a hobby, he hopes that Four Thunders will be well received by people from all around, whether that person may be Native American or not.