John Wayne's Approach to Native Americans
Leaders of the Native American community rejected his rationale for white hegemony: "When we came to America, there were a few thousands Indians over millions of miles, and I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from these people, taking their happy hunting grounds away." "There were great numbers of people who needed new land," he explained, "and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves." He not only believed that the whites were "progressive," but that they were also doing "something that was good for everyone."
It therefore astonished him that the Indians indignantly protested his views of the necessity of eliminating what he considered handouts to the Indians. Later, by way of apology, he explained that the writer of Playboy and himself "were kidding around about the Indians in Alcatraz," and that he said not-too-seriously "he hoped they'd taken care of their wampum, so maybe they could buy Alcatraz like we bought Manhattan."
"I can't imagine any Indian," Wayne said in his defense, "not realizing that over the past forty years I've done more to give them human dignity and a fine image on the screen than anyone else who has ever worked in pictures." "Indians were part of our history," he elaborated, "I have never shown the Indians on the screen as anything but courageous and with great human dignity."
Wayne probably wasn't the worst offender against Indians, but he wasn't a champion of them either. He probably was typical of his times. No doubt he thought of them in stereotypical terms: chiefs, braves, squaws, teepees, wampum, etc. Perhaps he envisioned them as children who occasionally grew troublesome, but were easily tamed.