Retracing "The Oregon Trail"

Endorsed by the Western History Association

Thursday, March 31, 2022, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples; Popular Culture; West


The Oregon Trail is a cornerstone of American popular culture. Released in 1971, the game came bundled on Apple II computers and fostered computer education from the 1970s–1990s. However, the game glorifies settler colonialism and erases Native peoples. HMH’s decision to rebuild the game led them to hire three Native Studies scholars to “bring a new level of respectful representation to the game.” In this discussion, we reflect on our role in the game’s re-development and what it means to engage with popular, contested narratives of the West in educational and entertainment contexts by adding Indigenous perspectives and presence.

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: William John Bauer, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
William Bauer (Wailacki and Concow of the Round Valley Indian Tribes) is a professor of history and program director for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His research is focused on oral history, labor and California Indian history. He is the author of "We Are the Land: A Native History of California," with Damon Akins, (University of California Press, 2021), "California Through Native Eyes: Reclaiming History" (University of Washington Press, 2016) and “'We Were All Like Migrant Workers Here': Work, Community, and Memory on California’s Round Valley Reservation, 1850-1941" (University of North Carolina Press, 2009). Bauer has served on the councils of the Western Historical Association and the American Society of Ethnohistory. Additionally, he has been a member of the American Historical Association’s Committee on Minority Historians (2017 to the present) and the Organization of American Historians' African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American (ALANA) Historians and Histories committee.

Panelist: Margaret Huettl, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Margaret Huettl, a descendant of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibweg, Assyrian refugees, and European settlers, is an Assistant Professor in History and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, her M.A. in Native American history from the University of Oklahoma, and her B.A. from the University of Rochester. She is a scholar of Native American history and North American Wests, and her research examines Indigenous sovereignty and settler colonialism in a transnational context. Her work appears in "Ethnohistory" and "Understanding and Teaching Native American History," forthcoming from University of Wisconsin Press. Her current project explores the continuities of Ojibwe or Anishinaabe sovereignty in the United States and Canada during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, centering her research on Anishinaabe ways of knowing.

Panelist: Katrina Phillips, Macalester College
Katrina Phillips (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe) is an Assistant Professor of History at Macalester College. She earned her PhD and BA in History from the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on Native performance, tourism, and history. She is the author of "Staging Indigeneity: Salvage Tourism and the Performance of Native American History" (University of North Carolina Press, 2021). Her current research centers activism, environmentalism, and tourism on and around Red Cliff.