Twain’s opinion of Native Americans

Mark Twain was known to be a fervent abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights. But some of his writings have expressed prejudice towards Native Americans. In “The Noble Red Man,” Twain is quoted as saying, “He is ignoble—base and treacherous, and hateful in every way. Not even imminent death can startle him into a spasm of virtue. The ruling trait of all savages is a greedy and consuming selfishness, and in our Noble Red Man it is found in its amplest development.” There are several more examples at

Could Twain be attempting to deconstruct others negative opinions of Native Americans at the time or is this an opinion that does not match up with his other liberal beliefs?

2 Responses to “Twain’s opinion of Native Americans”

  1. jholmes says:

    I do find that these excerpts are alarming in their content and tone. But I am not ready to fully embrace the notion that these are sentiments that Twain himself thought. Perhaps they like many of the descriptions in other works, serve to be satirical. I think that it is also possible that people of Twain’s time could have been vehemently vocal in their prejudices against Native Americans which could have been the fodder for the writing. At least that is what I hope. It is of course within the realm of possibility that Twain did feel that way.

  2. lcutler says:

    I think I agree with Julia- the line that really got me was “Scum of the earth!” at the end of the passage Alex quoted. I think that tone exudes the satirical odor of Mr. Mark Twain. I feel as though the ways he describes Indians in the examples on this page are very similar to his depictions of Blacks in Pudd’nhead. For instance, in one of the passages we discussed in class, when Roxy is telling “Tom” that the 1/32 black in him is what has taken over his soul and ruined him. Although the evidence offered concerning Twain’s Indian bias is not exactly the same, I feel as though it really is Twain just heaping on more sarcasm to deconstruct other’s opinions concerning Native Americans.