When rivers were trails
April 25, 2019 8:52 AM   Subscribe

R Oregon Trail series computer game of the 1980s and ’90s had narratives from the point of view of settlers traveling from Independence, Missouri to Oregon, it neglected the stories of the very people who lived on those lands. Enter a new game: When Rivers Were Trails, a Native-themed decision-based RPG created with the help of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and Michigan State University’s Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab and financial support from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. In the game, an Anishinaabeg player in the 1890s is displaced from Fond du Lac in Minnesota due to the impact of land allotments. They make their way to the Northwest and eventually venture into California.You can download and play it now.

This was developed as part of the Lessons of Our Land curriculum, which "teaches the Native American story of this land from historical to modern times. The nonprofit Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) developed the curriculum to provide both Native and non-Native students with broader insight and understanding of land, cultures, inherent rights and tribal sovereignty. The larger goal is to have children and adults identify with the land they live on and be better prepared to solve the difficult issues that impact communities on or near reservations today. Although Lessons of Our Land positions Native American tribal issues and values at the forefront, the curriculum emphasizes the fundamental relationship between land and people in general, not just Native Americans."

Elizabeth LaPensée, who created the game in collaboration with more than twenty indigenous writers and artists, has also created two other Indigenous video games, Thunderbird Strike (previously) and Honour Water.
posted by ChuraChura (4 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ooh awesome. I am very very interested in the decolonizing of games (love that there have been a few posts on this!). I played Oregon Trail in school back in the 1980s and never thought to question it.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:51 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


There's of course also indigenous games, like Never Alone. But II'm especially intrigued by the games that interrogate the dynamics of colonization.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:53 AM on April 25


Weren't there some cheap handheld Oregon Trail games (running the Apple II code in an emulator, apparently) in shops a year or two ago, which turned out to be easily reflashable? Perhaps a hacktivism/droplifting opportunity.
posted by acb at 3:32 PM on April 25


This is a lovely game. I really enjoyed learning all kinds of stuff, especially about the various resistance movements. The hunting was just as hard as in Oregon Trail. And I only died of typhoid once.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:09 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


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