App good way to learn about state tribes

Long drives to visit relatives are as much a part of the holiday tradition as turkeys and pumpkin pie.

Fading, though, are the days when kids battled to find the most out-of-state license plates, or families played “I spy with my little eye” as a unit. Today’s families have a movie running in the back seat for the young ones, with teens hooked up to their smartphone while Dad reads on the iPad and Mom drives, listening to tunes on the Sirius satellite radio.

The family road trip experience has become an individual interaction with technology. Hardly the way memories are built.

But New Mexico State University has found a new technology that could turn family traveling into a communal and educational experience — more like the good ol’ days, with a modern twist.

A free iPad application, “How Well Do You Know New Mexico,” offers fast facts about New Mexico’s 22 Indian tribes, all in a format that educates about Native culture.

Justin McHorse, a director of NMSU’s American Indian Program, said the notion for the app came from a board game created several years ago by Michael Ray.

Users use the app to place each of the state’s pueblos and tribes on the map. Once the location is matched, historical facts and information show up.

The university’s Learning Games Lab developed the app, which was funded by the American Indian Program.

We think it is useful for all New Mexicans to learn more about the state’s original inhabitants (where, by the way, a pre-Thanksgiving feast took place at Ohkay Owingeh in 1598, years before the Pilgrims hit the East Coast. Our Thanksgiving is on April 30).

In addition to the app being a fun way to while away the miles, we hope schools and teachers incorporate the information. It could supplement New Mexico history courses to increase knowledge about Native culture.

Modern kids like using technology to learn — whether driving with family or sitting in the classroom. Providing knowledge about the state’s original inhabitants through the latest technology makes sense, and perhaps use of the app will spread across the country.

One of the best ways to combat ignorance about the continent’s first inhabitants is by the spread of knowledge. Eventually, with knowledge, residents in states with fewer Native communities can begin to understand that Indians are living cultures, not just a relic of history.

— The Santa Fe New Mexican

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