Frontier Diplomacy

This engraving illustrates George Washington’s meeting with Seneca leader Queen Aliquippa, an important ally of the British during the French and Indian War.

Washington and Gist visit Queen Aliquippa

John McNevin, “Washington and Gist visit Queen Aliquippa,” 1856. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library.


As the colonial settlements of North America grew, rivalry over land rights and use increased dramatically. Matters were particularly heated along the border of the French and English colonies. French colonists, English colonists, and Native people all struggled for dominance in the area. In 1754, this struggle boiled over into the French and Indian War.

About the Image

This image, made over 100 years after the events it portrays, demonstrates the power wielded by Native communities in the years leading up to the French and Indian War. In 1753, George Washington was commissioned as a major in the Virginia militia. He was sent as an ambassador to the French and Native communities in western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley. On his way through the area, he passed through the territory of Seneca leader Queen Aliquippa without paying his respects. Aliquippa was a well-respected leader in western Pennsylvania, and the insult put the British alliances in the area in danger. On his return journey, Washington went out of his way to give her gifts. The episode demonstrates that the British believed Native communities were critical allies in their settlement endeavors, and they were willing to do what it took to keep their allies happy.


  • ambassador: An official representative of a government who meets with foreign leaders.
  • commissioned: To be given a job or duty.
  • French and Indian War: A colonial war that was fought from 1754 to 1763 between the British and the French. Native communities fought with both sides to maintain their own sovereign interests. Part of the larger global conflict known as the Seven Years War. The British triumphed, and greatly expanded their territory in North America.
  • major: An army officer above captain and below lieutenant colonel.
  • militia: A volunteer military force.
  • Seneca: One of the original tribes of the Haudenosaunee confederacy. They inhabited the region of western New York at the time of the American Revolution, although some groups had moved into other territories to escape the pressures of colonial settlement. Most Seneca settlements are still in New York, but there are also some in Oklahoma and Canada.

Discussion Questions

  • What does this scene reveal about the British attitude toward Native communities along their colonial borders?
  • Who is the figure of power in this image? How has the artist conveyed the power dynamics of this scene?
  • What are the drawbacks of using nineteenth-century images of Native history?

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Source Notes