George Washington: Fan of the Native Americans (Even Though He Calls Them Indians)

Categories: Texas

Gilbert_Stuart_Williamstown_Portrait_of_George_Washington.jpg
Photo from Wikipedia
It's pretty much common knowledge in our country that once America got discovered the Native Americans pretty much should have taken a good hard look at the guys in the Pilgrim hats and told them to get back on their boats and back across that ocean, pronto.

Obviously that didn't happen - or, you know, mostly it didn't - and the colonies became the United States which became the nation that broke almost every promise made to the native people and took an attitude toward the Native Americans that was generally and decidedly on the negative side.

However, it didn't start off that way. George Washington (The first U.S. President for those who slept through every history class ever and have never handled American money) fought and likely killed plenty of Native Americans in the French Indian Wars (Historical translation: Around the time that Daniel Day-Lewis' character, Hawkeye, was running around in that awesome leather outfit in Last of the Mohicans), but Washington himself ended up being fairly pro-Native American.

Near the beginning of his first term he stated that his policy toward them would be a fair one. Specifically:

"The Government of the United States are determined that their Administration of Indian Affairs shall be directed entirely by the great principles of Justice and humanity."

But if you doubt this policy - and given how it turned out for most Native Americans, fair enough - Washington wrote a letter decrying the murders of three Native Americans.

"It seems this murder (for it deserves no other name) was committed on light provocation, upon three Indians of the Mingo Tribe," Washington wrote to John Armstrong, a justice of the peace and land surveyor who advised Washington on land dealings, according to the Associated Press.

If you doubt the esteemed Virginian with the wooden teeth actually wrote this though, you might be able to persuade the folks over at the University of Texas to let you see the actual proof. UT now has possession of the actual letter from Washington to Armstrong, donated Barron U. Kidd, a Dallas oilman.

The 244-year-old letter - BTW, this is why people should keep writing letters, because 244 years from now an old email or text or tweet will not be as cool as a 244-year-old letter - will be housed at UT's Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

While Andrew Jackson (Trail of Tears, need I say more?) was decidedly not pro-Native American, it seems we have another sliver of proof that the very first president of the country was decidedly on the side of the native. Or at least he didn't want them murdered. And that proof of tolerance is housed in some climate-controlled set up in Texas, which is kind of nifty.

In fact, he kind of admired them, or at least found himself thinking they had the right idea during the American Revolution when he was heading up the Continental Army, as he wrote in a letter:

"I have often thought how much happier I should have been, if instead of accepting of a command under such circumstances, I had taken my musket upon my shoulders and entered the rank, or if I could have justified the measure of posterity, and my own conscience, had retired to the back country, and lived in a wigwam."

His use of the word "wigwam" just makes Washington that much cooler.


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