A Revolutionary Western: "Assassin's Creed III" and Visual Depictions of American Indians

“A Revolutionary Western” and its digital component, “Non-Native Warpaint,” examine the portrayals of American Indians in film and television programs set in the American Revolution, as well as related depictions in the video game Assassin’s Creed III. The historical context of American Indians in the American Revolution is explored alongside media studies that analyze representations of American Indians in Westerns. This study fills a gap in the scholarship on portrayals of American Indians in media set during the American Revolution and integrates games into the discussion. From D.W. Griffith’s “America” in 1924 to Craig Silverstein’s “Turn: Washington’s Spies” on AMC from 2014-2017, American Indians fill only the roles of minor, supporting characters and were most often cast as antagonists. The antagonist roles almost without exception fulfill the “Bad Indian” stereotypes of Native Americans, and the protagonist roles nearly always embody the “Good Indian” stereotypes. Also important is that the vast majority of works do not include American Indians; out of forty-four items of visual media reviewed, only eight have a meaningful level of American Indian representation, and only four of those eight have significant amounts of these depictions. The rule is erasure of Native American existence and participation in the American Revolution, and the exceptions are mostly villainous representations in minor roles. The only Native character that fulfills a leading role as a main character is Ratonhnhaké:ton of the Kanien’kehá:ka nation, and this takes place in the Assassin’s Creed III video game. This thesis argues that Assassin’s Creed III is a revolutionary Western due to the main character’s membership in the Kanien’kehá:ka nation and the foregrounding of the negative situations people of color dealt with during the American Revolution.