In the game Assassin’s Creed III, we see a lot of different forms of rhetoric ranging from spoken and visual. What makes Assassin’s Creed III unique from the rest of the series is that the protagonist, Connor, is half-Native and half-British. The rest of the primary assassins are from the setting of which the story is set in. Due to Connor’s half-blood background, Ubisoft can create a unique rhetorical script for him.
Historical Rhetoric Background
To understand the larger image that is represented in a small portion of the game, we must look at the overall conflict between the British and colonists. Billy Smith, a professor at Montana State University, worked with multiple historians and Ubisoft to ensure the accuracy of the British colonies and people. The primary vision of the British had was of a split public. “Parliament couldn’t understand why there were problems in the colonies. The British were taxing their people back home significantly more than those in the colonies” per Billy. The misunderstandings lead to deeper division between the British and the colonists that was influenced by colonial decisions. However, the Crown’s persuasive rhetoric claimed that “the British troops were protecting the colonists from the Natives along the Proclamation of 1763” towards the colonists. However, the rhetoric changed over time towards both natives and between each other. The British and Colonial rhetorics was fear based. The British rhetoric changed heavily towards the Natives when the Revolutionary War broke out. Both sides were calling each of them savages according to Billy Smith.
Native American Back Story
Let’s skip the rhetorical background of the Native Americans for right now. An understanding of the tribal history plays a large role in the war and the rhetoric that surrounds it in the game.
The Mohawk tribe –Connor is part of—is a part of a larger tribe known as the Iroquois or Iroquois nation. The war caused a split between the Iroquois nation. Some sided with the British and some with the Americans. This was the first time in about 400 years that the Iroquois Nation split up. The Mohawk tribe allied with the British, which is why we see the interactions between multiple natives and British, rather than Americans.
I understand that Connor sided with the Americans, which is accurate. Not all tribal members sided with one or the other. Thus, showing the generational differences between each of the tribes. Also, each tribe had smaller units, such as the village where Connor was from. So, although the tribal alignments are see in a very metaphorical way, there were other layers to the conflict which causes Connor to be such a detailed character.
The detail of these war time alliances is seen through the time that is spent between Connor and Haytham. Including social tensions between the two nations. The natives in the game only sided with the British because they were in fear of losing their land, but the British still caused problems for them, as we see with the relation between Haytham and Connor.
Native American Rhetoric: Survivance
Through these problems, there is an overall theme to Connor’s actions, visual rhetoric, and vocal rhetoric — a need for survival: survivance. We see this need almost immediately with the interactions between Haytham and Connor’s mother. Which is continued after the mother’s death with Connor and the village Elder. Beyond these simple conversation, we start to see a gendered rhetoric of survivance within the tribe. We see the division between tribal members during the war as well. The image below is between Connor and the Elder. Connor, who is fighting for his tribe, knows what Charles Lee wants: the land. Yet, tribal members have chosen to join him due to the understanding that they will get to keep what is theirs.
Not only do we see how they speak between each other, we see a gendered rhetoric within the tribe. Now, most of everywhere else in the world is a patriarchy, the Native American tribe kindly ignored that and is a matriarchy, as we see above in the conversation with the female elder holds the power over everyone else. She is also the one who sent Connor off to Achilles, too.
Gender typically equates to conflict along the lines at some point. There is more than just conflict it is just about everything related to gender. For example, Haytham and Connor’s mother’s relationship brings light to her Native survivance and Haytham’s desire to win the war and continue the survival of the British Empire, which brings a visual representation of the overall relation between the Native Americans and the British at the beginning prior to the war breaking out: tension filled evolving to a forced fear of losing their land.
In the .gifs below, we see the Battle of Bunker Hill. Connor is questioning the motives of the Americans. He has started to see the fading hope of freedom for his tribe. So with all of the promises, Connor wants to know who is going to survive the war, who will get their freedom, who will get their desires at the end of all this fighting? If we ignore the fact that Connor is being extremely stupid and charging the firing squad, which doesn’t promise survival, the thought process shows that he simply wants peace.
Survivance is predominately seen in Connor’s speech as well. For example, the scene below embodies the social tension between both the Colonists and British, and the Natives and the British. We see the tension of the Natives and British from “when [they] first met — what stayed your hand?” is a great image for the lack of eradication of the tribes upon the first successful colony, along with the desire to keep his tribe alive–his motivation for fighting in the war. Although Haytham’s response is not typical, it should be expected because the British had no clue of who these people were. I mean look at the movie Pocahontas. Skip the Templar part, but in that conversation, we see the difference in perspectives between how the British views the colonies and how some of the natives viewed the revolution. Also, Haytham’s wonderful and colorful opinion of the founding fathers was very much accurate at the time coming from the British. In pieces by Peter Oliver, a British that was in close ties with British Royalty and was heavily involved with colonial politics, there is so much hatred and disapproval towards men like Samuel Adams; who today is viewed almost as a hero.
There is a large influence of western rhetorics on Connor during his time with Acheiles. But wouldn’t you then see the fading of Connor’s survivance rhetorics from when he was a child? No. Ubisoft made sure to remind us that he was fighting for his tribe’s rights to their land and culture. Start the video blow at 1:38. Such as the hatchet tradition during war is shown in the cut scene. The scene has Connor putting his tribe first, making sure that they are cared for and still have their lands. At the same time, we start to see the greed developed by both the British and the colonist.
These small visual reminders are key to the native survivance rhetoric. Unlike looking at a museum or articles, Ubisoft has ensured that Connor and the social/ war tensions are accurate as possible, increasing the impact of the visual native rhetorics, especially in the genre of survivance rhetorics. We see this reminder through Connor’s interactions with the Founding Fathers and Haytham.
Where Everything Falls
So how does these video game rhetorics line up with the historical rhetorics and what impact does this have on our understanding of Native American Rhetorics? Well, it changes a lot of things. Modern day studies of this game focus on historical accuracy. However, the role of visual rhetorics and surviance plays a huge role in Connor’s character development. Growing from a simple tribal boy to one that seeks to protect his tribe as the growing tensions between the colonists and the British grow into a war. Surviance is further explored through the historical knowledge of the Iroquois Nation splitting because each side of the war promised through fear mongering that the tribes that aligned with them would be able to keep their lands and culture.
Do We See Survivance in the Other Games?
Survivance is a Native American rhetorical term. So, by that definition, no we wouldn’t see survivance in the other Assassin’s Creed games. However, the British and the colonists had their own form of survivance: fear rhetorics. Each game then probably has its’ own form of survivance within the game because each has a similar historical point: warfare and social inequality in some shape or form.