I will tell you right out, I don’t know who originally thought of adding American Indian mythology to the game “Werewolf: the Apocalypse,” and frankly it doesn’t matter who did. What does matter is how the American Indian culture in the game was treated.
I truly believe that were the game introduced today, White Wolf would be in receipt of the same level of negative publicity as Monte Cook is experiencing right now.
I have had several people who are American Indian-identified speak to me about the mythology in Werewolf, and by and large their feedback has been positive. I believe the writers at White Wolf’s “heart” was in the right place; there was a respect for the traditions inherent in the work.
But cultural appropriation is cultural appropriation. The hazy illusion of privilege clouds many peoples’ minds – including mine. If there is to be a roleplaying game that is not cultural appropriation, perhaps it should be an Indian game by Indians. Even then, I realize that there’s no one great pan-Indian anything. It’s not a monoculture. It’s a very diverse culture full of a lot of different stories and meaning.
And understand – Indian folks may not wish to create an Indian game, one that speaks to the authentic voice, the actual experience of the people.
My words here are only here because I have come to a realization that it’s not just Monte Cook. And it’s not just The Strange. It’s Werewolf, Mage, Changeling, every game that touched on the Indian experience and mythology.
It’s not up to me to say what is and what isn’t cultural appropriation – that’s for the folks in the culture that was appropriated. And now I’ll sit down and shut up and listen to what they have to say.