First, we at Paizo acknowledge that our beautiful coastal rainforest is the traditional, unceded land of the Coast Salish people, specifically the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish People. Today and every day we honor the Duwamish Tribe—past and present—and the land itself.
November is Native American Heritage month. This is a time to celebrate the culture, history, and heritage of indigenous peoples across the Americas. We asked some of our Native American contributors and staff to lend their voices to this celebration.
Dolok Darkfur, from Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-12: Breath of the Dragonskull by Michael Sayre
Michael Sayre, Paizo Designer (he/him)
Growing up, my grandpa’s Tlingit stories showed me how storytelling works as a vehicle for culture and values (and how it’s a great way to pass the time waiting for the fish to bite!) Those stories of kushtaka and little men in the woods excited me, and I remember hanging on my grandpa’s every word, realizing how his cadences and storytelling devices had been passed to my uncles, who would use the same rhythm even for different stories, which were all so hypnotic and mesmerizing. I remember the elders at the rec center and other events who would tell stories I’d never heard before but which were still so familiar.
Stories of Raven helped me contextualize the cleverness and skill of Tlingit elders and leaders in a modern environment, and I’d only continue to discover the value and power of some of those stories as I grew older. Stories about Bear (both ally and obstacle) helped me realize how strong people can be when I thought that people, especially me, were just weak and flawed. All of those stories and experiences helped make me realize that I wanted to tell stories of my own. Gunalchèesh ax eet yeelatûowu.
Taking the first steps to telling those stories never would have happened without the support of Goldbelt, our tribal corporation, that assisted me on numerous occasions with education and health care related issues that would have forced different life choices if I’d had to navigate them without a corporation representing a rich tapestry of communities supporting me. What I am, all the Tlingit & Haida people of southeast Alaska helped me be.
Jessica Catalan, Paizo Developer (she/her)
Hi everyone! My name is Jessica Catalan (she/her), and I’m a Canadian, Métis freelancer author and Starfinder Line Developer for the Starfinder Society. This year, Canada held its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, an annual commemoration honoring the children who died while attending residential schools and the survivors, families, and communities still affected by the legacy of the residential school system. While this is a step forward for us, reconciliation without action is just words and there is much to be done. I’ll spare you the newscast.
I’m not much of a speaker, but as many of us have realized over the past two years, while one voice can be silenced, together we are strong, and we can be heard. So, in addition to raising my voice and lending my support to Every Child Matters, MMIWG2S, and other movements here in Canada, I can take two concrete steps I’d like to mention today: reclamation and amplification.
Today, I’m here to amplify. I encourage you to look at the other names on this blog—check out their works, support them on ko-fi or patreon, back and purchase their projects, follow them on social media. Hear them. Keep an eye out for other Indigenous works, such as Coyote & Crow, and support the people involved. And if you’re an Indigenous TTRPG author who loves Starfinder and is struggling to have your voice heard, reach out to me. I’m listening.
Carlos Cabrera, Paizo Contributor (he/him)
Hi there, my name is Carlos Cabrera. I am mixed, but I identify as Mexican, Indigenous (Mescalero Apache), and Cape Verde (Portuguese and African). At first, I was going to write something for both Hispanic Heritage Month and Native American Heritage Month, but when I started looking into my family history—closer than I ever have before—I had to take some time for myself. The facts were not very pretty, and history was not kind to my family as early as either grandparent on my father’s side.
I also grew up in a white household. My mother's family comes from a variety of European countries, and even a little Cherokee as history also likes to dictate. There are other idiosyncrasies there as well, but I recognize that my upbringing comes with a certain amount of privilege. Earlier this year, I wrote to the Mescalero Apache Reservation to see if my family had any affiliation. My relief when I discovered they were not was short-lived. The facts of how my family avoided that were not any prettier.
I think that is why I pledged a copy of the Coyote & Crow RPG to the reservation and continue to write to this day. I hope it inspires someone to either get into games or go on their own grand adventure, even if they don't have the luxury of walking out their front door like I did. Maybe one day I can even pay them. I think that would be my American Dream.
Miiyu, from Starfinder Society #4-06: Combatants' Concerto: Prelude to Revolution by Shay Snow
Shay Snow, Paizo Editor (they/them)
Kúha’ahat, táy:sha’! I’m Shay Snow and I’m mixed Native American. My family stems from two separate tribes—my mother’s tribe is Caddo and my father’s tribe is Swampy Cree. Both tribes have strong matriarchal ties, so when introducing myself I lead with my mother’s tribe and then follow-up with my father’s tribe. I can’t speak on being just a Native TTRPG creator, but I can speak on being a Caddo and Swampy Cree creator.
Being a Caddo creator means crafting your words carefully, knowing that your language is dying. Being a Caddo creator means trying to take all of the nuance of your language, the humor, the care, the cadence that warms your heart and makes you want to move when it’s spoken, and trying to put it into a language that your family was forced to adopt and speak. Being a Caddo creator means trying to find rhythm and when you can’t find it, forcing that rhythm into your work so that hopefully your words make other people want to move and dance.
Being a Swampy Cree creator means moving slowly through the minefield that is your history and trying to pluck the safe bits out so that your heritage doesn’t accidentally cause you pain. Being a Swampy Cree creator means knowing that some parts of your culture have been taken and commodified and it’s now on your shoulders to look at those spirits and offer your respect as you try to carefully tell their stories without causing danger or harm.
Being a Native creator in 2021 has meant creating and crafting with careful words and tools while also being painfully aware of everything pouring into the news and media over the past year. It means writing and trying to bring joy while burning sweetgrass and mourning over loved ones lost recently and loved ones lost long ago and recently found.
My name is Shay Snow, I live on unceded Caddo and Wichita land, and my family calls me Little Jay.
To all members of our community with indigenous heritage: thank you for all you do as creators, GMs, players, and people.
Honoring Native American Heritage Month
Tuesday, November 9, 2021