Thoughts on how the board game Catan replicates early U.S. treatment of indigenous and black people for Indigenous People’s Day:

  • Catan is described as an uninhibited island, but there’s someone already living there by the time we arrive: we’re told to call them “the robber.”
  • The robber prevents sometimes up to three different players from collecting resources on a tile. No one person could possibly mine so much ore or harvest so much wheat that there wouldn’t be plenty for everyone to share. So perhaps the robber represents a larger community of people.
  • When we first arrive, the robber is living in a dessert, not over-consuming any of the islands resources. As settlers, we move the robber around all over the island. Essentially, we enforce the robber to mine/harvest all the resources so no one else can have any. There are no game mechanisms to ensure they’re being paid fairly or treated well for their work.
  • The robber is a black wooden piece.
  • In the end, the robber doesn’t go back home to the dessert, unless the settlers decide so. The robber ends up on whatever small portion of the island we reserve them to.

Some friends and I have talked about how to play Catan in a way that takes the island back from the settlers. Let’s do it! Happy Indigenous People’s Day!