More than 20 years before taking the helm as the nation’s first “Great Councilor of the 13 Fires,” George Washington was a Colonel in the British Army. As part of his duties, he was dispatched to Pittsburgh to tell the French to get the hell out of town, the British wanted control of the area and its three prized rivers.
He failed – and his failure led to the bloody French and Indian War – but during his not-so-courteous call on the French, Washington was accompanied his local guide, a Seneca Indian leader by the name of Guyasuta.
Washington’s trip to Pittsburgh was in 1753. A year later, the war erupted when a troop led by Washington ambushed a French patrol in a battle for control of the rivers, the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio.
Washington and Guyasuta were enemies during the seven-year war. The Senecas and other tribes fought beside French soldiers to preserve their lucrative trade agreements with France and other countries throughout Europe. Britain, however, was the ultimate victor and the tribe’s trade agreements were rendered worthless and void.
Fast forward to the fall of 1770. Seventeen years after their initial meeting, Washington, then a civilian, toured the Ohio Valley to see the land he helped win for the British. During his trip, he met once again with Guyasuta. Although they still disagreed on the future, the two men parted if not as friends, then at least not as mortal enemies.
Washington as we’ve all learned eventually became commander of the Revolutionary Army and the nation’s first president.
To most, he was a hero. As for the Senecas and other tribes, though, they never could bring themselves to trust Washington or future leaders. In a letter written by tribal leaders in 1790, Washington is described as an unjust killer and referred to as the “Town Destroyer.”
“And to this day when that name is heard, our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers,” the letter states.
To this day, the monicker endures. “Town Destroyer” is still used as an Iriquois name for the president.
In 2006, Pittsburgh sculptor James A. West unveiled “Points Of View” (pictured above) to commemorate the meeting between Washington and Guyasuta. It sits on Mount Washington, directly above the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio.
All photos copyright Stephen Wissink. All rights reserved.
This story and photos were created as part of The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Heritage