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The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  146 ratings  ·  38 reviews
George Washington's place in the foundations of the Republic remains unrivalled. His life story--from his beginnings as a surveyor and farmer, to colonial soldier in the Virginia Regiment, leader of the Patriot cause, commander of the Continental Army, and finally first president of the United States--reflects the narrative of the nation he guided into existence. There is, ...more
Hardcover, 620 pages
Published April 6th 2018 by Oxford University Press
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Matt
In the course of almost fifty years [George] Washington grew from a young man out of his depth in the cultural practices, foreign policies, and geopolitical strategies of Indian country to the most powerful man on the continent, whose policies and precedents affected the lives and futures of thousands of Indian people. He had spent his life grasping for Indian land, although he never called it that. He had fought alongside Indian allies, and he had waged war against Indian people, Indian towns, ...more
Terri
George Washington's nickname was "Conotocaurius" (Town Destroyer/Burner) by the Iroquois Native Americans. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this well-researched book of American history that was never taught to us in school. Eye opening explanation of George Washington, his family and how they "acquired" the lands that they desired.
Bob H
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even after all the books written about George Washington, this is an important new look at the first president, and focused on his dealings with the native peoples of the colonial American frontier. It's well-researched, with good and pertinent maps and illustrations, with clear prose and narrative, and it's not a flattering portrait. We find Washington, as a young man, begin as a land surveyor, and quickly become a speculator in frontier lands, at a time when land speculators -- especially in ...more
Randall Wallace
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Washington knew what the Indians knew: the war in the West was a war for Indian land. In Washingtons day, the government dealt with Indians as foreign nations rather than domestic subjects. So, encroaching on the lands of others has been US foreign policy since day one (and even before). Natives accurately called George Washington Conotocarious which means Town Destroyer or Devourer of Villages. Washington even took pride in the name. George was originally a surveyor. Surveyors were the ...more
Katie
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is pretty dense, which made it a little hard for me to retain specific information in it, but the overall story it tells and the way it recontextualizes George Washington's life is interesting and valuable.
Rama
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Formative years: President Washingtons efforts to reform the new nation on Native American land

George Washington spent his life turning the Native American land for the new republic as well as his personal real estate. He believed that land acquired for a song would sell for a fortune. When European immigrants flooded the country, he owned extensive lands in what is now known as VA, WV, MD and PA. White immigrants settled in western territories in United States, they helped entrench slave
...more
Ted Hunt
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I took a week long Gilder Lehrman class at my alma mater, Dartmouth College, in the summer of 2016, and it was taught by Colin Calloway, so I'm a bit partial to this book. I found that it really succeeded in meeting its goal of putting the world of the American Indians, most notably their interaction with the European colonists (and then American citizens), right at the center of the history of the nation in the last half of the eighteenth century. There was never any doubt that the contest ...more
Hannah Brislin
Nov 16, 2018 rated it liked it
As it attempted to be unbiased, this book really only presented the view of the winners or European imperials. For the full historical context of this time period and subject matter, this book would need to be paired with another book that provides the experience of Native Americans.
Jerome
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A broad, well-written and insightful work.

Calloway ably covers how Washingtons self-interest, ignorance and prejudice influenced his dealing with the natives, and emphasizes a common theme throughout all of his dealings with the Indians: Washington really wanted to treat the tribes fairly, but still wanted their land even more. He covers Washingtons ideas of turning the Indians into farmers and why it didnt work, how difficult it was to make a lasting peace when the settlers kept expanding west,
...more
Marcia
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing. If you have any interest in the early years of this country, the Native Americans, and our first president read this book. I knew little about Washington as a person, only as I was taught about him in school. I also knew little about the Native American tribes and their leaders at that time. This book opened a window on what really happened in our country's early history and the role Washington and the Native Americans played. It's a bit long but worth the read. Very well ...more
Jory
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-group
Read this for book group this month. Washington's journals provided a huge amount of information to scholar Colin Calloway as he took a hard look at our nation's first president's interest in land expansion and the diplomacy he carried out with numerous Indian nations in the mid-late 1700s. Calloway definitely reinforces that land was wealth, and the amount of land that European settlers (like Washington's family) assumed was theirs, offers a good look at our early wealth in this country: stolen ...more
Jefferson Coombs
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
It was very interesting to think about the early history of the country with the Native Americans as the main players rather than as a sidebar. I found his treatment of Washington to be pretty fair. He wasn't perfect but mostly he had good intentions and everyone is human and seeks to gain benefit for themselves.
Katie/Doing Dewey
Jan 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the last of the National Book Awards shortlist books I was able to read before the awards, but I'm a little slow getting to a review! I found it a bit of a slow read as well. While the information it contained was fascinating, the writing didn't do the material justice. It did make me realize that there was an amazing amount of diversity and inter-tribal politicking among Native Americans during Washington's times that gets completely glossed over in most histories. There were an ...more
Todd Stockslager
Nov 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Review title: Founding Father, Town Destroyer

Early in his career as a military leader facing the Native Americans in battle, George Washington was given the Native American name Conotocarious, meaning "Town Destroyer." While we learn the outline of Washington's career in school, his time in the western wilderness of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the Ohio Valley is often brushed over. Calloway has written this history to fill in the brush strokes and reveal how and how much Washington affected and
...more
Kathleen
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is not a book to be read in one sitting. However, it is a well-researched account accessible to the non-specialist. I was surprised how little I knew about the Indian policies articulated by Washington and their lasting affect. The book also describes Indians as actors, a real force to be reckoned with in the colonial period and the early years of nationhood.
Chris Chester
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In the course of almost fifty years Washington grew from a young man out of his depth in the cultural practices, foreign policies, and geopolitical strategies of Indian country to the most powerful man on the continent, whose policies and precedents affected the lives and futures of thousands of Indian people. He had spent his life grasping for Indian land, although he never called it that. He had fought alongside Indian allies, and he had waged war against Indian people, Indian towns, and
...more
Charles Inglin
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
You'll never look at George Washington the same after reading this rather lengthy and comprehensive work. And all in all, that's a good thing. Washington emerges as a complex and very human person rather than the near mythological hero of grade school texts.
Washington was very much a man of his times and of his class, the Virginian planters. As a young man he was ambitious to promote himself and to build a fortune. The former he attempted to achieve by putting himself forward for military
...more
Wbahrmail.Com
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A major takeaway of this book: What name did the Indians give both George Washington and his great-grandfather John? Town Destroyer! It was a moniker George wore with pride. In a major way, he often felt he had to destroy an Indian village to save it. And, if his destruction of Indian lives was not immediate, it was eventual in that the burning of crops led to starvation when the Indians did not find food through difficult migration.

This book is not for the casual reader. It is a dense,
...more
Cindy Leighton
I mean I knew we took this land from the Ojibwe, the Seneca, the Cherokee, Wyandotte, Iroquois and all the other people who lived here before us - but reading 600 pages of incredibly well researched details about the ruthlessness with which our first President picked fights and destroyed nations so that he and others could make money off of land speculation. . . this was a rough read. Calloway's main conclusion after a lifetime of research and a professorship at Dartmouth College is that ...more
Bonnie_blu
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
As Calloway ably relates in this extremely detailed work, George Washington had many admirable qualities and talents, and it's likely that we would have lost the Revolutionary War without him. However, he was also a man of his time and social position, which strongly influenced the evolution of his attitudes toward Native Americans. And while not an excuse for his actions, it does help us to understand why he did what he did (and didn't do).

Washington did not see Native American societies as
...more
Lindsey
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one more than the other recent book on the same general subject. He seems to take a fairer approach with Washington without overlooking Washington's foibles . . . Washington comes across as pretty land-grubby. . . . It's hard to keep all the "players" straight so I just read for an overall impression, which was pretty much that everything is far more complicated than either "side" makes it out to be. The Indians themselves had so many in-group treaties and betrayals among ...more
Dave
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Relations with Native American tribes influenced the outbreak and course of the American Revolution as well as subsequent relationships with European powers. George Washington recognized the Native American Tribes as sovereign nations: He made war on them, made treaties with them, repeatedly honored and entertained their leaders at state dinners, and decided public policy based on their perceived friendliness, threats, or strengths. As the USA grew in population and greed, native Americans ...more
Denise Serrano
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It definitely gives a well rounded view on both sides of early settlers and Native American relations. I visited mount Vernon this year and seeing George Washingtons correspondence room, helped visualize and bring this book to life for me. I could picture native delegates visiting his home. Visit Mount Vernon and walk throughout the property and go through the museum dedicated to his life. Getting bogged down with dates and names would have made this book less ...more
W Charles
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a good read and looked at Washington from a different perspective. Very fresh. The one drawback I have was the writer tended to view Washingtons actions by a 21st century standard. How he treated natives was not good. From an 18th century perspective, he did not do anything that different from his peers. In fact, his efforts while President to build a way to assimilate the natives, while pollyannish, did try to take a different view from the norms of the 1790s. ...more
Christopher Lutz
Excellent work that frames Washingtons life in terms of his relationships with native nations and his attempts to grow both the new United States and his own landholdings. Its amazing just how much of his life, and the precedents of the executive branch of government are defined by the First Nations. ...more
Jer Wilcoxen
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting topic, eye opening experience learning about some one we would deride if they were operating like this now, but hold in respect instead. style was repetitious and a little disorganized. but some fascinating information, a good look at the mindset of the players of the time and the culture they lived in, and very well researched.
Kent District Library
A fresh perspective on the American Revolutionary era that looks at one of the most iconic men in American history and the significant roles of various Native American tribes and tribal leaders in the foundation of the United States. Jake at Plainfield ...more
J.P.
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
More evidence that the United States was a country founded by white men for the benefit of white men ... to the detriment of anyone else. Washingtons Indian policy was typical of those times - inhuman and indecent. And still, there are echoes to things said today ...more
Ron Burr
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Indian World of George Washington is extremely detailed in story telling but a very good account of Indian-European/American relations through the 18th century in trade, warfare, and especially real estate.
Michael R. Nelson
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Highly informative and unrelentingly depressing. We should never forget ours is a nation built on stolen land in the backs of stolen labor. Recommended.
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Colin G. Calloway is John Kimball Jr. 1943 Professor of History and Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. His previous books include A Scratch of the Pen and The Victory with No Name.

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