New app explores New Mexico’s Native American culture

New Mexico State University American Indian Program’s Michael Ray and Justin McHorse stand with three versions of the 'How well do you know New Mexico' game, which has now become an iPad application. NMSU photo courtesy Samuel Horstman

Curious about New Mexico’s tribes? Now there’s an app to help you learn more about the state’s diverse American Indian culture.

The free iPad application, created by the New Mexico State University, offers interesting facts in a fun format about the state’s 22 pueblos, tribes and nations. The goal is to educate residents about the culture, said Justin McHorse, a director with the university’s American Indian program. He said the idea came from a board game created three years ago that has been used as an educational tool in the classrooms.

“Creating this game would allow people, who are interested, to learn about more about [the pueblos] and where they’re located in New Mexico,” McHorse said.

Michael Ray, who created the board game How well do you know New Mexico that inspired the app of the same name, said he originally created the game as an educational tool for students. Now with the launch of the application on Apple’s App Store in September, both native and non-native users can learn about the state’s diverse culture, Ray said.

“I know that a lot of our students will sometimes know the names of the places, but not know the geographic locations,” Ray said. He added that he hopes the app will educate people across the country, too, and not just in the university’s classrooms.

The iPad app allows the user to correctly place one of the 22 pueblos, tribes and nations on a map of New Mexico. If the name of the tribe is placed correctly, historical information will be displayed on that American Indian group. Ray said the physical board game worked in a similar way by using push pins with the tribes’ names, which then would be placed on a New Mexico map attached to a board. Now users simply click and drag the tribes’ names.

The app was developed by the university’s Learning Games Lab, which has created early-education applications for the iPad in the past and was funded by the university’s American Indian program, McHorse said.

McHorse said that even though there are other reference-type applications about American Indians, this is the first app that focuses on New Mexico’s American Indian tribes.

The app, which was uploaded to the App Store in September, was announced late last week by the university. McHorse said officials in the American Indian program would work with developers in the future to allow users to download the app on other tablets and smartphones.

Tazbah McCullah, the marketing director for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, said that the application will help non-native people understand the state’s tribes much better.

“Anything that’s going to put out accurate information about the tribes and make it fun and perhaps peak the interest of actually visiting one of the pueblos, sounds like an innovative way to draw attention to learn about the cultures,” McCullah said.

Contact Uriel J. Garcia at 986-3062 or ugarcia@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ujohnnyg.