"Dakota Sioux Break Camp," Alfred Sully Papers, Yale University.
Screengrab from The Oregon Trail
"Searching for Indigeneity in The Oregon Trail"
This project explores the Indigenous histories paved over by the Oregon Trail in the hit computer program developed in 1971 and redeveloped in 1985. As part of the edited collection, Playing at War: Identity & Memory in American Civil War Video Games (LSU Press), my chapter uses the designers strategies to be “historical accurate” in developing The Oregon Trail as a means to emphasize the unintentional or intentional erasure of Indigenous histories in the beloved computer game. I argue that settler colonialism plays a pivotal role in our perception of the American West, the Oregon Trail, and the computer game that depicted the journey of white settlers west in the nineteenth century, infrequently encountering Indigenous people and their cultures along the way. Games like When Rivers Were Trails, as I describe in the chapter, provide a corrective to the settler colonial erasures to show Indigenous survivance and experiences, not only in the game but also its developmental process all together. We hope to see this collection published in 2022.