The late Wilcomb E. Washburn was one of America's most versatile and accomplished historians, receiving his Ph.D. (American Civilization) from Harvard University in 1955. This is the annotated text of a presentation he made here in Riverside, CA during the time he was Director of American Studies at the Smithsonian Institution. The author of more than sixty books and articles, he was noted for his expertise concerning the history of Virginia and the American Indian. Works include The Indian in America (1975) and The Assault on Indian Tribalism: The General Allotment Law (Dawes Act) of 1887 (1975).
The role of the American Indian during the American Revolution was a shadowy and tragic one, symbolized by Benjamin West's painting, now in the National Gallery of Art, of Colonel Guy Johnson, the British superintendent of Indian affairs in the North, and Joseph Brant , the great Mohawk warrior. It was a shadowy role, but an important one. It was shadowy not only because the Indian operated physically from the interior forests of North America and made his presence felt suddenly and violently on the seaboard settlements, but because the Indian was present also in the subconscious mind of the colonists as a central ingredient in the conflict with the Mother Country.