Native American Representation In “The Oregon Trail”

The Oregon Trail game got a full revamp for the Apple Arcade, by the company Gameloft Brisbane, now accurately portraying Native Americans.

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Historically speaking, The Oregon Trail was a route from Missouri to Oregon that saw many emigrating American pioneers walk or ride west its 2,000 miles seeking fortune and a place to call home in the mid-1800s.



According to a VICE interview, in the early 1970s, The Oregon Trail became popular after a group of three Student Teachers in Minneapolis – Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann, and Paul Dillenberger – developed code on a teletype device, a typewriter connected to a main computer, to help their students learn about the Westward movement in U.S. History. It was then converted to a computer game a decade later, but the original creators weren’t credited until the 1990s.




Now, the game got a full revamp for the Apple Arcade by the company Gameloft Brisbane. It came out in April, and one of its most notable features is that it now accurately and respectfully portrays Native Americans. Additionally, players can choose what character they wish to play as, between pioneers and Native Americans, allowing a more inclusive game experience. To do this, Gameloft’s creative director Jarrad Trudgen brought in three Indigenous Historians to help with the feat. According to an NPR article, these historians were Margaret Huettl from the University of Nebraska, David Lewis from Oregon State University, and the third historian was not named.




These historians found appropriate names and advocated for new roles for the characters. They strongly encouraged the removal of drums and flutes from the music, and they taught the developers that Native Americans were bilingual or polylingual at that time and didn’t speak broken English.

According to NPR, Trudgen said: “There are a lot of popular games out there, Tomb Raider and Last of Us, and like these big games — where bow and arrows are sick.” But as historians explained, bows and arrows were a stereotypical historically inaccurate addition, because Native Americans were more likely to have a rifle at that time.

The best part? The developers actually listened and you can now play the game with a more historically accurate experience.