About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of a Nation"

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased that you could be with us today, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through YouTube. We all look forward to hearing from Colin G. Calloway about his new book, The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of a Nation.

Before we hear from our speaker, I’d like to let you know about two other programs coming up soon.

Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., the Richard Nixon Foundation presents a Nixon Legacy Forum on “No Final Victories: Lessons from President Nixon’s Drug Abuse Initiatives.” A panel of officials from the Nixon years will discuss the administration’s response to the growing drug abuse problem in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

And on Tuesday, May 8, at 7 p.m., former White House Photographer Pete Sousa will present an illustrated lecture using images from his recent book, Obama: An Intimate Portrait. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. Check our website or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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The Indian World of George Washington, as Professor Calloway states in his book’s introduction, shows “how Native America shaped the life of the man who shaped the nation.” We know a great deal about George Washington—or think we do. In school we learn that he was our first President and commander of the American army that won the Revolutionary War, but we sometimes see these two roles in isolation from the world Washington inhabited.

In this world, territorial expansion was key to prosperity and growth. Washington, from his youthful days as a surveyor, during his military career, and on through his Presidency, looked to the west for opportunities and encountered the peoples who already inhabited those lands.

In the National Archives we hold 377 ratified Indian treaties, three of them from Washington’s Presidency. Across the Mall, the National Museum of the American Indian has featured one of these treaties in its “Nation to Nation” exhibit for six months at a time. Through this partnership, millions of visitors over the last few years have been able to view these important documents.

But as I said, there are more than 300 treaties. To open up access to all of the treaties, we are embarking on a new project to digitize all of them plus their supporting documents.

Future scholars, as well as tribal leaders and lawyers, will be able to examine them closely, not only for their historical importance but also for their relevance today.

This project will open up our vaults to a worldwide audience, much as the digitization of the papers of the nation’s Founding Fathers has made accessible the words written by George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and others. Founders Online is a wonderful portal to these papers, gathered and annotated by dedicated teams of scholars, as Professor Calloway referred to the staff of the Papers of George Washington in his acknowledgments. All of the separate papers projects represented in Founders Online have been supported by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the grant-making arm of the National Archives.

Providing access to our records is our core mission. Because we preserve and make available these records, writers can put together the pieces of historical evidence and tell us the stories of our past.

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Colin Calloway is John Kimball, Jr., 1943 Professor of History and Professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. He first arrived at Dartmouth as a visiting professor in 1990 and became a permanent member of the faculty in 1995. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Leeds in England in 1978. After moving to the United States, he taught high school in Springfield, Vermont, served two years as associate director and editor of the D'Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and taught for seven years at the University of Wyoming.

Professor Calloway has written many books on Native American history, including The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and The Transformation of North America; One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West Before Lewis and Clark; and two books for the Bedford Series in History and Culture: Our Hearts Fell to the Ground: Plains Indians Views of How the West Was Lost, and The World Turned Upside Down: Indian Voices from Early America.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Colin Calloway.