John Wayne's Approach to Native Americans
In "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," Wayne defeats the Indians by guile, stampeding their horses, rather than by violent conquest. And in "Rio Grande," he is contrasted with the white villainous trader, who objects to peace because he knows it means an end to his illicit traffic.
The critic Jon Tuska regards "Hondo" as Wayne's closest personal statement of his view of the Indians. To begin with, Hondo was married to an Indian woman who died. The movie also depicts favorably Vittorio, the Indian chief, justifying his anger, following the treaty violations by the whites. "There's no word in the Apache language for lie," Wayne says, "an' we lied to 'em." Finally, the film comments on the sad passing of Indian culture: Hondo regards the end of the Apache as "an end of a way of life, and a good one."
Tuska also views "McLintock!" as an unofficial sequel to "Hondo," because both were written by James E. Grant and both show the Indians' loss of their dignity, culture, and homeland.
So where did Wayne get a reputation for being anti-Indian?
The British critic Alexander Walker sees in it a more extreme example of inbred hatred of non-Americans than in any of Wayne's earlier Westerns, which he explains as a product of the McCarthy era, when the film was made. In this narrative, Wayne cannot accept Debbie's choice to live with the Indians because he considers it "unclean" and "morally degraded;" as if saying, women must keep "pure" because the continuity of the white race depends on them.
Furthermore, he continuously taunts Martin, his companion, for being partly Cherokee, thus impure. Still, as Beaver suggested, the Indians are not depicted as "the blackest villains," and even Wayne, who hates them, basically admires their expertise, persistence, and survival skills.
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.