The most recent episode of the Intercept's Intercepted podcast touches on a lot of topics relating to white supremacy and US history. But the first segment includes an interview with a Native American historian named Nick Estes. A citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Estes is an assistant professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico; he's also the host of the Red Nation podcast and the author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.
Among the many discussions in the podcast, Estes brings up George Washington's reputation amongst indigenous people as "town destroyer" —
Washington was known as "town destroyer." He was given that name by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy because he led a scorched-earth campaign against the Haudenosaunee prior to the Revolutionary War, but also during the Revolutionary War to push them further westward, to make room, you know, to create Lebensraum or living space for the new kind of white-Anglo nation that was under construction. Every sitting president to date of the United States has the name "town destroyer" from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Last year, I was commissioned by Cornell University to write a play about climate change in the region of the Finger Lakes, based on collaboration with the community. That was the first time I had ever heard about the scorched-earth assault against the Haudenosaunee, otherwise known as the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign of 1779. General Washington was pissed at the Haudenosaunee — a confederacy formed by the Mohawk, Onandaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Tuscarora, and Seneca people — for not helping the Colonies to fully separate themselves from Britain and claim ownership on North American soil (can't imagine why the Natives might be mad at that prospect?). So Washington sent Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton on a mission, telling them: "The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more."
And that's exactly what they did. They destroyed 160,000 bushels of food and burned at least forty Native American settlements to the ground, displacing thousands just in time for a famously severe winter, leaving most of the survivors to die of cold or starvation.
This was 3 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The American Revolution was still raging. And it's conveniently left out of all our history books.
Massacre & Retribution: The 1779-80 Sullivan Expedition [Ron Soodalter / Historynet]
The Clinton-Sullivan Campaign of 1779 [National Park Services]