When Rivers Were Trails

Elizabeth LaPensée & The Indian Land Tenure Foundation

When Rivers Were Trails is an educational 2D adventure game developed in collaboration with the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and Michigan State University’s Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab thanks to support from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. The game follows an Anishinaabeg in the 1890’s who is displaced from Fond du Lac in Minnesota to California due to the impact of allotment acts on Indigenous communities.

Players are challenged to balance their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing with foods and medicines while making choices about contributing to resistances as well as trading with, fishing with, hunting with, gifting, and honoring the people they meet as they travel through Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and eventually must find a place to call home in California. The journey can change from game to game as players come across Indigenous people, animals, plants, and run-ins with Indian Agents. Gameplay speaks to sovereignty, nationhood, and being reciprocal with land.

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