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Foe, friend, or critic: native performers with buffalo bill's wild west show and discourses of conquest and friendship in newspaper reports.

Wild West shows, a form of spectacular exhibition that presented life on the frontier, thrived from the 1880s to the early 1900s. Typically a two- to three-hour extravaganza, a Wild West show performance included displays of horsemanship and marksmanship, western vignettes that depicted frontier life and the heroic deeds of cowboys and settlers, Indian-themed vignettes that presented their culture and customs (e.g., setting up a village and dancing), and the reenactment of famous battles, such as the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or, at the very least, a generic Indian attack on a settlers cabin or an immigrant wagon train. This Wild West show formula remained basically the same through the decades; however, battle reenactments were added and removed based on popularity and current events. The success of these shows was due in part to claims of authenticity. Wild West shows purportedly presented actual events from real life on the frontier reenacted by genuine cowboys and Indians who were "on the scene." (1)

It is not difficult to imagine how this form of spectacular exhibition became popular. In fact, according to Don Russell's The Wild West, over one hundred Wild West shows were in existence from 1883 into the 1930s. Many were small-time operations of short duration, but a few persisted through the decades. The most well-known and perhaps most successful show was Buffalo Bill's Wild West. (2) Frontiersman, buffalo hunter, Pony Express rider, and army scout William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody toured North America and Europe with his Wild West show from 1884 to 1913. An extensive literature exists on Buffalo Bill's Wild West show specifically, examining Cody's life, his show, the frontier myth, and the making and performance of American nationalism and identity. (3) This article departs from a focus on show entrepreneurs and the performances themselves to explore Native performers' experiences and perceptions within the context of traveling with and performing for Buffalo Bills Wild West show.

Wild West shows highlighted frontier (i.e., white settler) life and included a variety of "cowboy" acts, but the stars of the show were the "Indians," who drew in the crowds in the hundreds of thousands. Wild West shows consistently produced both romantic and stereotypical representations of Native peoples as exotic noble savages, although, as Paul Reddin shows in his book, Wild West Shows, peoples perception of "Plains Indians" changed through time. A considerable amount of scholarship, in particular the excellent historical studies by Vine Deloria Jr., Joy S. Kasson, Sam A. Maddra, L. G. Moses, and Louis S. Warren, has focused on deconstructing the Wild West show performances and critiquing the representation of Native peoples in these shows. (4) However, the performances themselves were not the only sites of representation. The visual and print media, including newspaper reports, advertisements, photographs, postcards, show programs, and posters, also produced and perpetuated images of a noble savage or "savage Indian." The visual and print media, which included Native performers' comments, provides a site for the examination of representations and discourses of Native peoples and how Native performers may have contributed to and contested these discourses.

Based on archival research conducted at several depositories, this article investigates how newspaper reports pertaining to Native performers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West produced and reinforced discourses of conquest, progress, and civilization. These reports, through their presentation of Native comments, images, tourist activities, and events, advanced what I am calling a "foe-to-friend" narrative, particularly in North America, as part of an evolving discourse about civilizing and assimilating Native peoples. However, these written histories contain contradictions and discrepancies, reflecting the different voices of history and the various perspectives of different actors. (5) In fact, Native performers' voices and perspectives have also been recorded by the press. Performers expressed their own views, which both supported and challenged prevailing foe-to-friend discourses produced in newspaper reports. The examination of Native performers' statements demonstrates that while they spoke of peace and friendship, they also used the press to communicate their opinions of white society, make social and political statements, and offer their own interpretations of the world and their experiences in Wild West shows.


Wild West shows may have exploited and appropriated Native peoples and culture to draw in curious crowds and achieve success, but many Native peoples from across North America willingly participated. (6) Their participation in Wild West shows resulted in a striking paradox: Native performers, working in "tourism," were also tourists themselves who visited theaters, churches, monuments, and other city sites while traveling abroad (beyond the reservations and overseas) with the show. Because of the publics interest in Wild West shows and Native peoples in general, the press regularly reported on the shows' tourist activities and performances, as well as on Native culture and current affairs. Native experiences in Wild West shows is thus part of a larger context of Native peoples' travels abroad, which has received some attention from scholars. (7) In particular, two chapters from Christian Feest's Indians and Europe: An Interdisciplinary Collection of Essays, which explores European perceptions of and fascination with Native peoples from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, explore the nature of relationships and perceptions between non-Native and Native peoples through a nuanced examination of newspaper reports. Daniele Fiorentino offers some insight on Europeans' perception of Native performers touring with Wild West shows as reported in the press, whereas Rita G. Napier provides the first comprehensive attempt to examine Native peoples' perceptions of Europeans during their tour with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show from 1887 to 1906. (8) Kasson suggests that these "human interest stories" in the media about Native performers were part of a public relations strategy to increase interest in the shows. (9) Indeed, some articles appear to be either the result of promotional ploys aimed at enticing the public to attend Wild West shows or public relations events for the benefit of the press. However, Native performers' comments do not appear to depend on this "promotional" context; their comments varied from supporting narratives of conquest and friendship to challenging them, independent of the context of the interview or motives for the newspaper report.

Still, there are some challenges to discerning Native performers' opinions and experiences from archival materials due to problems of translation and bias in newspaper articles. First, Native performers' comments are likely edited and selectively presented. Second, it is important to note the intended audience; newspaper reports were authored by non-Natives and produced for a primarily white audience and hence reflected white, American, or Euro-centric ideologies popular at the time. The tone of newspaper articles thus supports narratives promoted in Wild West shows, such as that the "savage Indian" cannot survive in the face of civilization. This is not surprising, as written histories often sustain cultural myths of the Other through the content they present. (10) Because newspaper reports are historically and culturally situated, it is important to recognize that these reports, as well as other related Wild West show visual and print media, are imbued with multiple layers of meanings, as they are "social artifacts" with a complex relationship between producer, subject, and audience. (11) Despite these challenges, useful information may be gleaned from newspaper reports because, as Napier observes, Native performers offered a distinctive non-Western perspective on white people and society. (12) These Native perspectives and voices can be teased out from the multiple layers of meaning. In addition to newspaper reports, a few of the Native performers' opinions and reactions have also been documented in personal memoirs. Although recorded through others, the reminiscences of Luther Standing Bear and Black Elk, for example, offer first-hand accounts of their experiences.

The press shared in North American and European audiences' desire to see the famed Indians of dime novels, but audiences' reception of the Wild West show and its Native performers varied, especially in Europe. For example, although both the French and Italians were interested in Indians, reporting on them in romantic and stereotypical ways, French reporters took an interest in the future of the Indians, whereas the Italian press did not. And although the show was equally successful in Britain, Germany, and Italy, the Italian press was not as pleased with the show. (13) These differences may influence the tone of newspaper reports in terms of reviews of the show itself but not necessarily the tone of comments made by Native performers. Overall, the show was well received, in particular in the United States and Canada, as well as in England. Because this article is based on newspaper reports from these countries, there is a consistent base for comparison of Native performers' comments. (14) However, the difference in the reception and reviews of the show itself does seem to correlate with the amount of coverage Native performers received in the press. In addition, newspapers consistently reported on Native peoples in stereotypical ways, regardless of their review of the show, that reflected ideological and sociopolitical perspectives of the time. This article is especially concerned with tracing discourses of conquest and friendship in newspaper reports and the emerging foe-to-friend narrative.


Wild West shows enacted the progress of America and the conquest of the West, its land, and its original inhabitants, the Indians. The performance of progress and conquest in Wild West shows reflects what Richard Slotkin and others call the "myth of the frontier," which supports the notion that western expansion stimulated Americas economic growth and development. (15) The addition of imperialistic military themes in 1891 and other "races" and the Congress of Rough Riders in 1892 to Buffalo Bill's Wild West show further demonstrated the might and progress of America. (16) Wild West show performances also depended on images of Indians as savage warriors in order to advance this "myth" and notions of progress. Native peoples were represented as the bottom of the savage-to-civilization scale, a position that naturalized and justified the evolutionary views of progress, assimilation policies, and nationalistic aspirations of Europeans and Americans at the time. In short, Wild West shows enacted, justified, and legitimized Manifest Destiny. (17)

Part of this "winning of the West" or conquest narrative also involved the construction of Native peoples as a vanishing race. But the Indian Wars were now over, and Native peoples had not vanished. A modification in discourse from the "savage and vanishing Indian" to the "civilized and tamed Indian" was hence necessary to maintain the story of a successful conquest. This modification in discourse is clearly linked to contemporary debates about the "Indian problem," which considered the place of Indians in modern America. (18) The conquest narrative, therefore, also entailed discourses of friendship and peace, which supported the fact that Native peoples were no longer a threat, that is, no longer a foe. The foe-to-friend discourse found in newspaper reports and other media related to the Wild West show signaled to the public the successful civilizing of Native peoples, as well as their changing relationship with the white settler community.

Among the earliest representations of the foe-to-friend discourse in relation to Wild West shows are the photographs of Sitting Bull and "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Sitting Bull's role in the 1885 season tour of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show was that of a famous warrior, promoted as "the killer of Custer." (19) While the show was in Montreal, Quebec, William Notman, a successful and well-known photographer, took a series of studio photographs that have been widely copied and reprinted in various forms. Some of the pictures of Cody and Sitting Bull feature them standing side by side as "heroes of the Wild West." (20) In one photograph, Sitting Bull is dressed in a fringed leather shirt, dark trousers, and a full-length Plains headdress, with an embellished sash and bag, and wearing a stoic, reserved expression; Cody wears riding pants, tall boots, a Stetson hat, and an embroidered shirt. It is likely Notman had knowledge of his subjects and insisted (or agreed) that Sitting Bull and Cody wear their richly decorated performance regalia, which were visual symbols of the archetypical Plains Indian and the frontiersman, respectively. Facing each other, they both clasp the rifle in front of them with one hand and shake hands in friendship with the other, equally heroes of the West (see fig. 1). (21) Their equal status--as both heroes and representatives of the West--is accentuated by the symmetrically balanced composition of the photograph. Significantly, the caption on a souvenir photograph based on this series reads "Enemies in '76, Friends in '85." (22) The photograph of the two men was also reproduced for the 1893 show program with a slightly altered caption: "Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill--Foes in 76--Friends in 85." (23)

In many of the other Sitting Bull-Cody photographs, they both gaze out into the distance rather than face each other, perhaps looking forward toward the future. (24) The fact that Cody's face is well lit whereas Sitting Bull's is dark may have been an intentional representation of their future outlooks by Notman. Moreover, while Cody's gaze is optimistic, (25) Sitting Bull's expression is reserved and unreadable, almost uninterested. To a certain degree, Sitting Bull's expression is typical for the time period. His pose and stoic expression are consistent with popular imagery of the time, maintaining the public's romantic ideals of Native peoples as noble savages. Furthermore, Native men were normally painted and photographed looking away from the camera or gazing into the distance. (26) In one of Sitting Bulls portraits, however, he stares directly and sternly into the camera, gazing back at the photographer (see fig. 2). Here, without his iconic headdress, his firm gaze suggests an aura of determination, perhaps even confidence and intent. This image is reminiscent of photographs taken by Palmquist and Jurgens of St. Paul, Minnesota, during Sitting Bulls 1884 tour with Alvaren Allen and James McLaughlin. (27) Significantly, Sitting Bull sold his photographs as souvenirs during this tour.

It is possible to decipher the probable intent and meanings of the Sitting Bull-Cody series of photographs for the multiple parties involved. For Notman, producing images that conformed to the publics expectations of Indians was essential--that of the noble savage, both a warrior and a friend--as these photographs were likely produced to be sold as souvenirs. This particular genre of photography was familiar to Notman, who also took photographs of Canada to be sold as souvenirs, for example, his series of hunting scenes. For Cody, these photographs were promotional tools that encapsulated the main theme of the show: the winning of the West. The depiction of victory and friendship in the photographs further supported this theme. Moreover, Cody capitalized on Sitting Bull's fame and reputation as a stoic warrior in advertisements and promotional events in order to create excitement around the show and draw in the crowds. (It is no coincidence that when Sitting Bull joined the cast in 1885, the show achieved new levels of success.) Sitting Bull himself welcomed the public and press alike at barbecues and events organized for publicity purposes. However, Sitting Bull was not a pawn; he was a savvy businessman who consciously used his status as a noble warrior. Not only did he negotiate his contract with Cody to include an exceptional salary for his stoic appearances in the Wild West show, he also insisted on exclusive rights to sell his autograph and photographs of himself. It is likely that Sitting Bull had run out of souvenir photographs or cabinet cards from his 1884 tour and willingly posed for Notman to replenish his stock. (28) Sitting Bull's aura of confidence in the aforementioned portrait, therefore, possibly reflects his intent and business sense when it came to marketing his persona. Perhaps Sitting Bull was not as concerned as Notman or Cody about constructing a particular image that resonated with the general public, so long as that image was of himself, an image he knew could be sold to the public.

Second, Wild West show entrepreneurs promoted the foe-to-friend discourse in newspaper interviews and occasionally in their show programs. Although Wild West shows consisted of war dances and the reenactment of battles as well as attacks by Indians, Gordon "Pawnee Bill" Lillie's show program, for instance, implied that one result of American progress and civilization was peace. A Pawnee Bill's Wild West show program-courier from about 1908 outlining the "Ethnological Congress" at the show describes the atmosphere both inside and outside the arena as one of friendship: "The Indians have no better friends around the show than the scouts, cowboys, frontiersmen and trappers. Only a few years ago the Indians had no greater enemies than the very same men who are now their best friends." (29) In another example, the manager and promoter of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, John Burke, explicitly stated in an interview that the Native performers were former foes. (30) Burke was quoted as saying that the 1886 show included former foes from the Sioux and Pawnee Tribes--foes until 1885, when they smoked the pipe of peace. He said that American Horse, Rocky Bear, Long Wolf (who were all performers with the show), and "Ogallalas" [sic] from Pine Ridge were now "the most reliable of the treaty Indians." Comments such as these seem to suggest that the alleged friendships found in Wild West shows were indicative of the friendship and peace to be found throughout America among Native peoples and between Native peoples and settlers.

In the same article, Burke went on to promote the show as an "education for Indians" and stated that their experiences with the show would result in an end to frontier troubles, "especially [for] the young bucks who have no idea of the extent and magnitude of civilization, and the chiefs.... [O]ld Spotted Tail and Sitting Bull have been quick to seize the opportunity to teach the young warriors what they have to contend with in battling with the settlers." Cody similarly promoted the idea that traveling with Wild West shows would be educational. In a speech to his Native performers in 1897, Cody suggested that they take the opportunity to learn, as progress was inevitable; he stated: "You have done what you thought was right and best for your people. Now it is the white man's turn, and his civilization has overcome yours." He beseeched them to learn the ways of the white man: "I hope both of you will take this opportunity to see all you can of the great city of the whites." (31) Burkes and Cody's comments are far from impartial. Their main interest most certainly was to promote the show. Wild West shows were successful in part because they reproduced and disseminated popular imagery of Indians as savage warriors. So it is interesting that show entrepreneurs and managers employed this type of discourse because it seems contrary to the imagery produced in show performances. Wild West shows presented Indians as foes, not friends.

There may be a reasonable explanation for these (seemingly) contradictory narratives of friendship and peace, on the one hand, and the imagery of savage warriors, on the other. For one, "savage Indians" never won the mock battles reenacted in Wild West shows; thus the performances themselves nevertheless supported discourses of conquest. Second, the engagement of show entrepreneurs and promoters like Lillie, Cody, and Burke with this foe-to-friend narrative reflects the larger sociopolitical context of the era. Particularly in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, this foe-to-friend narrative is linked with government policies--such as the Dawes Act, land allotment, the banning of ceremonies and dress, and the formation of residential schools--aimed at civilizing and assimilating the Indian. It makes sense, then, for show entrepreneurs and managers to argue that working in shows was beneficial and crucial to civilizing and assimilating processes. By casting working in Wild West shows as an education for Native peoples, entrepreneurs could also more easily convince the Bureau of Indian Affairs to permit the hiring of Native peoples for Wild West shows (particularly after claims of mistreatment in 1890, but these claims appeared as early as 1886 in relation to other shows). (32) Placed in this context, the notion that Indians in Wild West shows are peaceful friends on the road to civilization does not seem so incongruous. Show entrepreneurs' emphasis of the educational value of working in Wild West shows, in actuality, aligns with the foe-to-friend discourse and the broader civilizing project.

The press picked up on this theme, highlighting how traveling with Wild West shows supposedly provided Native peoples with an education about the white world and that this education is part of the Native peoples' "civilizing process." For example, Chief Red Shirt is described as "impressive" and "greatly struck with the wonderful land he is visiting," according to one reporter. (33) Iron Tail says that he likes traveling, as it affords him an opportunity to see other parts of America. (34) A reporter writes that Walk under the Ground has undergone a "process of education" with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. The article describes the "magnificent Indian," six feet three inches tall, as an "untameable [sic] spirit and cunning ... formidable foe," but "the power of the white man has had a most sobering effect upon his warlike instincts." (35) Walk under the Ground is quoted as saying: "I am contented to rest within my tent and to watch the wonderful ways of the White Man, which are freely shown to us during our travels with the Wild West." During their visit to the eastern United States, Black Fox and Plenty Shawls were "put through the paces of civilization," writes a reporter--this involved experiencing nonreservation activities such as riding a bike and enjoying a Turkish bath, as well as seeing the material wealth of white society. (36) Reporters wrote about how Native peoples were becoming "civilized" by seeing the might of the white world in their travels, which contradicted their other descriptions of Native peoples in Wild West shows as backward and uncivilized warrior savages.

The contradictory imagery of Native peoples as traditional and uncivilized, on the one hand, and as modern, civilized, and assimilated, on the other, is a subject that Moses considers in great depth; he writes: "The major conflict between Wild West shows and Indian-policy reformers became largely a struggle to determine whose image of the Indian would prevail." Moses effectively demonstrates how images of a "traditional" Native presented in Wild West shows conflicted with images of "progressive" Natives disseminated by government officials and Indian reformers. This tension was also evident in other spectacular exhibition spaces, such as at the Worlds Columbian Exhibition in 1893 (also known as the Chicago Worlds Fair), where BIA Commissioner T. J. Morgan in collaboration with the Interior Department erected a model Indian school to show "the work that the United States is doing in raising the Indian through education." (37) This demonstration of civilized and assimilated Indian students studying, working on trades, and displaying their products of industrious work contrasted sharply with the "traditionally" dressed warriors performing in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show just outside the exhibition grounds. (38)

Paige Raibmon shows how Canadian Native peoples were similarly constructed as traditional and authentic, on the one hand, and as modern and assimilated (or acculturated), on the other, at the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893. The Canadian Department of Indian Affairs also exhibited Native residential schoolchildren as examples of successful assimilation. In contrast, performances of the hamatsa dance and war dances by the Kwakwaka'wakw at the Northwest Coast Exhibit on the fairgrounds (organized by anthropologist Franz Boas in collaboration with Kwakwaka'wakw George Hunt) reinforced stereotypical views of Native peoples as wild and savage. However, Raibmon convincingly argues that the Kwakwaka'wakw presented a "counter-image" because they simultaneously declared their cultural persistence, political defiance, and adaptation to modern (white/colonial) society through their performances. The counterimage she refers to is more than contesting stereotypical images of the "savage"; it represents their political and ideological power as they find a place in modernity (through modern labor and wages, which fed back into their potlatch system), rather than rejecting it. (39) Therefore, although world's fairs and expositions often included live exhibitions or performances of Native peoples' "traditional" life and customs, in some cases they also provided evidence of Indians' successful assimilation. It is apparent that Wild West shows were not the only space for the negotiation of images and discourses of Native peoples and their place in North American society.

Third, the views of the press and reporters are also evident in their articles about Native performers, but not necessarily about Wild West shows, which nonetheless engaged in narratives of conquest and friendship. Such is the case in a biographical obituary of Young Man Afraid of His Horse, another well-known performer with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. This article supports the foe-to-friend narrative by explicitly describing Young Man Afraid of His Horse as a spokesperson of peace and an example of a "civilized" Indian. According to the 1893 article, Young Man Afraid of His Horse became "a thoroughly civilized and friendly Indian, recognizing the overpowering might of the white man." (40) He made many visits to Washington, participated in treaties, and was a friend of US generals Crook and Miles. The reporter writes that Young Man realized there was more honor in living in peace and harmony with whites and other red men, and that he even arranged a peace treaty before his death with his bitter enemies, the Crow.

Other references to enemy chiefs who had become friends and taken up the mission of peace appeared in newspaper articles written in the style of an educational history lesson. One such article about famous chiefs and generals--complete with photographs of Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, American Horse, Rain in the Face, and Crow Eagle--described their roles in decisive battles that were ultimately won by the American army; it is important to note that these famous chiefs were also performers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. The article emphasized how these chiefs, who had participated in rebellions, had been subdued and later became friends of Buffalo Bill: "Each of the distinguished redskin warriors has after the war,' clasped hands and smoked the 'pipe of peace' with his eventual 'Coola' (Friend) 'Buffalo Bill.'" (41)

Finally, newspaper articles advanced the foe-to-friend discourse by featuring interviews and comments from the Native performers themselves, especially the more famous ones, that highlighted the notion of friendship and peace with white people. It is not entirely clear whether the comments featured truly represent Native opinions in their entirety or whether they once again represent the views and assumptions of the press and reporters. Perhaps it is a combination of both the expectations and ideologies of white reporters and the (edited) opinions of Native performers, which would partially explain the ambiguities and contradictions within and between articles. Sitting Bull, Red Shirt, and Iron Tail were just a few of the performers who appeared regularly in reports, show programs, and other media forms such as posters and illustrations.

Although Sitting Bull only performed in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show for one season, he was often featured in newspaper reports; these rare interviews provide some valuable insight on Native perspectives. For the most part, Sitting Bull had positive things to say about whites and spoke of friendship in interviews with the press. For instance, an article about the show when it was touring Canada states that Sitting Bull considered Major Walsh a "good man" and said he had been treated well by William Cody and Nate Salsbury. (42) In the same article, the reporter writes that Sitting Bull wanted to make friends with whites and that he had met thousands on his journey and had shaken hands with them. Sitting Bull also noted the peacefulness of the cities and stated that when he returned home, he would tell his people about all he saw and "how respectfully everyone had treated him." In another interview, Sitting Bull declares, "I am very much pleased with my trip through the country. I like Canada; those people all treated me well." (43)

Another reporter interviewed Sitting Bull and Crow Eagle at a barbecue after Buffalo Bill's Wild West show at Beacon Park in Boston in 1885. Sitting Bull commented how much he liked the people of the East, whom he considered friends: "They treated me very kindly ... and when I return to my people I shall tell them all about our friends among the white men, and what I have seen.... [A]s long as I am all right and my people are all right, I want to travel and see all I can." The reporter writes that Sitting Bull declared that "the more he saw of the white men the more he liked them." Crow Eagle was equally contented. He stated; "I have met many white people, and my heart is good towards them." (44) According to the interview quotes featured in these newspaper reports, Native performers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show were content and friends with white people.

And yet, Sitting Bull was not always received kindly. But while American audiences booed him, most likely because of his role in the 1876 Battle of the Little Big Horn, audiences in Canada cheered him. (45) This may have to do with the fact that Cody attempted to explain the Indian side of the story to Toronto newspapers and that Canadians viewed Sitting Bull not only as the "star' of the show but also as a statesman. (46) Furthermore, Sitting Bull, along with other Sioux from Standing Rock, took refuge in Saskatchewan after the battle. Therefore, one can understand Sitting Bull's comments of friendship in the Canadian context. The article from Boston, however, is similar in tone. This may be because the Boston article is the result of a public relations ploy, as Kasson suggests is the case with these events. (47) Both of these interviews occur in the Wild West show camp, and Wild West show promoters often organized rib roasts and barbecues for the press as publicity. It is possible, then, that Cody or Burke instructed Sitting Bull to be on his best behavior for publicity purposes. However, Sitting Bull and others were rather outspoken and offered a range of opinions, sometimes within the same article, as will become evident in the next section. Nonetheless, the point here is that the press featured quotes and interviews from Native performers in such a way as to highlight the foe-to-friend discourse and presented such comments as truth.

Red Shirt was another favorite of the press, especially in England; in fact, he was billed as the "star" of the 1887 tour with Buffalo Bills Wild West show and was the most quoted performer. (48) In this example from 1887, Red Shirt speaks of friendship between Native peoples and political leaders. Native performers had the opportunity to meet with royalty and political figures during their travels, and they often expressed their opinions of these leaders. Sometimes Buffalo Bill and his marketing team organized these meetings, at other times they were the result of the request of those political figures who had seen (or wished to see) the show. Either way, Native performers often offered more insightful observations than the press perhaps expected. Through interpreter "Broncho Bill," Red Shirt comments on the British former prime minister, William Gladstone:

   When I saw the Great White Chief, I thought he was a great man.
   When I heard him speak, then I felt sure he was a great man. But
   the White Chief is not as the big men of our tribes, he wore no
   plumes and no decorations. He had none of his young men (warriors)
   around him, and only that I heard him talk he would have been to me
   as other white men. But my brother (Mr. Gladstone) came to see me
   in my wigwam as a friend, and I was glad to see the great White
   Chief, for though my tongue was tied in his presence my heart was
   full of friendship. After he went away they told me that half of
   this great nation of white men have adopted him as their Chief.
   Thus I am right, for if he were not both good and wise so many
   young men of this nation would never have taken him for their
   leader. (49)

Red Shirt refers to Gladstone as a friend. This quote also offers some insight on how he viewed the political structure of the white world. His evaluation of Gladstone as a leader is based on "Indian" criteria: meeting in friendship, the former prime ministers oratorical skills, his wisdom, his appearance, and specifically his lack of regalia and supporting warriors. In his comparison of "Indian chiefs" and "White chiefs," Red Shirt recognizes the power of the white chief but also implies that Indian and white chiefs are equal.

Red Shirt expressed similar sentiments of friendship with Cody in 1887. He stated that the Battle of Yellow Hand was past, and now Cody and he were brothers and equals: "Then we would have killed each other, but now we have the same heart, and we are brothers. Col. Cody is awfully good to me and my people." (50) In another article from around 1897, a reporter writes that Red Shirt had visited England twice before with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and had not seen any changes since his last visit, but his demeanor had changed. In this article Red Shirt declares: "I have taken part in many battles and several peace conferences, but now I have thrown off the mantle of fighting and have become a man of peace. I must confess that I was once a notorious character and took part in some great uprisings." (51)

Comments such as these from "famous chiefs and Indians" like Sitting Bull and Red Shirt carried an important message to the public, one of peace and friendship, and it is likely that the public presumed that the words of these performers represented Native peoples' mindset as a whole. Situated after an era of major conflict and Indian Wars, as well as the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 (also known as the Ghost Dance War of 1890-91), these interviews and comments could have been read by the public as statements of America's victory and conquest. Ideas of peace and friendship came from America's recognition of the triumph of white society and the civilizing of the Indian. The foe-to-friend discourse found in newspaper reports thus reflects the broader sociocultural and political context, ideologies, and agendas of the era.

But did these Native performers accept their subjugation and see themselves as friends of the white man, or were they negotiating these encounters by strategizing their comments? It cannot be assumed that Native performers viewed this context, or their new living conditions, in these terms. While photographs, show entrepreneur comments, and newspaper reporters engaged in a foe-to-friend narrative, and although some Native performers may have similarly spoken of friendship in their interviews, they did not necessarily consider themselves to be "conquered." The ambiguities and contradictions found in newspaper reports point to the possibility of the existence of other perspectives and readings of this complex context. The question is: What other meanings, interpretations, and intentions exist in these newspaper reports?


One of the reasons why Native people participated in Wild West shows, besides the economic benefits, was the opportunity to travel and learn something of the white world. Deloria writes that Wild West shows performed an important function: "Touring with Buffalo Bill enabled a whole generation of Indians to learn about American society in a relatively non-threatening atmosphere." (52) That is not to say that working in Wild West shows did not potentially result in harm; reports of mistreatment and illness reached the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the offices of Indian agents. (53) Nevertheless, traveling and performing in Wild West shows also provided opportunities for Native performers to observe and learn about white society, as well as comment on their new living conditions to the press. In short, Native performers were not passively engaging in conquest discourses; they were critics. This reading of Native performers' comments in newspaper reports (and, to a lesser extent, the rare personal memoirs narrated by Native people themselves) exposes the possible different interpretations of Native comments beyond the friend-to-foe narrative presented. A comparative analysis of reports sheds light on Native performers' perspectives of white society, as well as their view of the "educational value" of traveling with Wild West shows. In fact, Native performers used this opportunity to express their own opinions and make social and political statements.


Show entrepreneurs and newspaper reports may have emphasized how traveling with Wild West shows was an education in the white world and facilitated the assimilation of Native peoples, but Native performers had other intentions. Significantly, memoirs from Native performers suggest that this "education" was not a civilizing process but rather, in their view, an opportunity to learn so that they could further their needs and make things better for themselves in the face of an encroaching white world. For example, Black Elk had specific reasons for joining the Wild West show; Napier suggests that "he chose to go with the show as a quest after a cure for the death of his people." (54) He hoped that "white man's ways" might provide some solution for his people. Black Elk wrote:

   I wanted to see the great water, the great world and the ways of
   the white men; this is why I wanted to go. So far I looked back on
   the past and recalled the peoples ways. They had a way of living,
   but it was not the way we had been living. I got disgusted with the
   wrong road that my people were going now and I was trying to get
   them to go back on the good road; but it seemed as though I
   couldn't induce them, so I made up my mind I was going away from
   them to see the white man's ways. If the white man's ways were
   better, why I would like to see my people live that way. (55)

Being a medicine man, Black Elk also wanted to learn about white men's religion and how they "upheld the law": "So thus all along, of the white man's many customs, only his faith, the white man's beliefs about God's will, and how they act according to it, I wanted to understand. I traveled to one city after another, and there were many customs around God's will." There were other possible learning opportunities as well. Raymond DeMallie suggests that "as a result of his trip abroad, Black Elk was able to speak English, and he had a realistic perspective on the world." (56) Napier posits that Native people such as Black Elk and Red Shirt (and Sitting Bull) may have chosen to travel because they "had lived through the time of great wars [and] defeat." (57) This may very well have been the case, and now they were looking forward.

Sitting Bull also sought to learn about "white ways" to help his people. When a reporter asked Sitting Bull why he had left his people and traveled with the show, he responded: "to learn the way of the whites and teach my people how to live better. I go back in four weeks and tell my people what I have seen. They will not go on the war path again, I have learned much. Indian must keep quiet. The great father must protect us and give us justice." (58) Sitting Bull's comments demonstrate his desire to learn white ways, but his response also expresses a sense of injustice and futility.

These comments speak of the exploratory nature of performers' travels and their desire to learn and seek solutions. Native perspectives on the educational value of seeing the white world, therefore, were not as much about becoming "civilized" as about survival. From this point of view, there may have been a deeper underlying meaning and purpose for the journeys made by Red Shirt, Iron Tail, and Walk under the Ground, described above as an educational journey (as well as of their statements of friendship outlined in the previous section). As Moses rightly notes, Red Shirts statements to the press about the educational value of performing and the value of "white man's civilization" did not mean that "Indians would cease to be Indians if they learned to live as whites did." (59) The comments of both Black Elk and Sitting Bull demonstrate that they in fact had a different perspective from white society on what their "education" would entail and the reasons for their travels.


Newspaper articles are filled with descriptions of Native performers, ranging from their physical appearance to their behavior, but sometimes Native performers also gave their impressions of white society and people. For instance, Native performers often used the metaphor of children to describe whites. Like the paternalistic image the Bureau of Indian Affairs had of Native peoples, some Native performers viewed white people as spoiled children, always wanting things and in a rush. During a visit to New York, for example, Flat Iron expressed the opinion that white men were not very intelligent or reasonable: "The white man is a papoose. He cry for many things, when he get the things he cry to know what to do with them. White man talks too fast. He run all time. Indian run sometimes." (60) Chief Last Man, a Sioux performer with the 101 Ranch show, also thought that city folk were "crazy." His conclusions about the big city and whites were not positive: "Palefaces run here, run there. Rush to work and rush home. Heap big hurry 'bout nothing. Palefaces damn fools. All crazy." (61) As a note, many performers spoke little English and relied on (sometimes Native) interpreters; still, quotations of short sentences in broken English such as these may represent stereotypes of the day, an exaggeration of Native peoples' speech. Other Native performers, like Sitting Bull and Red Shirt, were better versed in the English language, a fact that is acknowledged in some newspaper articles. This may explain why other quotations appear more grammatically correct.

While whites were observing them, Native performers also gazed back and observed the social, economic, and ethnic differences to be found in American society. The industrialized cities of white society were supposed to impress Native performers on tour. To some Native visitors, however, the city was not the civilized existence that white people believed it to be. During his 1885 tour of the eastern states, for example, Sitting Bull was astonished by the poverty he saw, "often giving away his show money to the ragged horde of children who followed him around." He expressed his disappointment to coworker Annie Oakley: "The white man knows how to make everything, but he does not know how to distribute it." (62) Some Native performers thus critiqued the economic disparities and supposed modernity of white society.

Articles about Native performers touring various locations in New York City in 1897 are illuminating, for they reveal how performers recognized and perceived class and ethnic differences in American society. Stand First and Porcupine Creek, for example, went to an opera and a hotel and later visited the Bowery and Chinatown. They were made aware of class differences in American society by the contrast between the Waldorf Hotel and the Bowery; they also offered opinions. The reporter states that the hotel gave these "wild Westerners an idea of the luxury of New York society." (63) Stand First comments that if Cody would give him the money, he would buy the hotel and bring his people to live there. On the other hand, he was disgusted by the Bowery, according to the reporter. In another example, Plenty Shawls also toured the Waldorf Hotel, as well as Tiffany's jewelry store; she said that she would like this kind of luxury all the time. However, Plenty Shawls did not equate luxury or "civilization" with superiority. Observing the city women's clothes, she noted that they were finely dressed and must spend much time making dresses but that "civilization of that kind makes lazy women." (64) Plenty Shawls had a different opinion about what it meant to be civilized.

Newspaper reports emphasized Native performers' Otherness, but performers also observed and commented on ethnic Others. Noting ethnic differences to be found in America during his 1897 tour of city sites, Stand First says that he found Chinatown the most interesting: "I never saw people like those that live there before." (65) Also in 1897, twenty-five Indians "of Wild West fame" visited an Irish fair that probably took place in New York City. Rain in the Face makes a general comment about white men being lazy because they do not want to draw up the (pipe) smoke, but he also gives his impression of the Irish, saying that the "men are strong and the women are fair." Through an interpreter, he continues to make a comparison between these ethnic Others and his own people, a comparison that has a political message: "The Irish are a mighty tribe. The Indians, the forefathers of Rain-in-the-Face, once owned all the country. Now the Irish have come to rule around all the coasts, and the Indian is driven into the interior.... He says that he has nothing more to say ... thinks that he has said enough." (66) More than gazing back and observing ethnic Others, this statement also recognizes the impact of immigration and settlement in America: Native peoples continued to be dispossessed of their land to make way for whites.

Tourist excursions, as well as traveling with the show in general, exposed Native performers to class and ethnic differences. These examples suggest that performers were observing and evaluating white society as they were being observed. In addition to returning the gaze, Native performers traveled to observe and learn, not as an education into civilization or because they accepted assimilation, but for their own desires to adapt and survive. Moreover, although newspaper reports were filled with the foe-to-friend narrative and discourses of progress and assimilation, Native performers' perspectives and opinions, which were contrary to this narrative, also existed in these articles. Native performers may have been making a conscious effort to explain to the public the changes they were experiencing and what that meant for their future existence.


This array of comments and quotations is suggestive of the fact that Native people touring with Wild West shows purposely used their position and status as performers to communicate their perspectives. Based on the foregoing evidence and the examples to come, it is clear that these Native performers were being diplomatic in order to negotiate this encounter and manage this complex moment while at the same time communicating their opinions and concerns. This represents what Kathleen Buddle identifies as "communicative agency." (67) Buddle suggests that an "Aboriginal public sphere" exists in culturally mediated spaces, such as newspapers, fairs, exhibitions, and powwows, in which aboriginal people join in their shared interests. She convincingly demonstrates that this public sphere, whether historical or contemporary, is a space for "Aboriginal communicative agency" with the possibility of activism. Similarly, encounters between Native performers and the press (and hence the public), facilitated by participation in Wild West shows, were culturally mediated spaces of communicative agency; however, this agency, to the best of my knowledge, did not lead to the activism that Buddle suggests is possible. (68)

As performers and tourists, some Native people had an opportunity to interact with journalists, politicians, royalty, elites, and the public, as well as with other Native peoples. Touring with Wild West shows hence provided a chance for Native performers to unite in their political concerns and to express them to an international audience through the press. Because the press was interested in Wild West shows, Native performers, and their activities, Native people working in Wild West shows could use their status as performers, as well as the public's interest in them, to make social and political statements. It is not known to what extent their comments influenced the public's understanding of Native culture and issues. Nonetheless, working in Wild West shows did provide occasions for some Native performers to make social and political statements. In this sense, these encounters were mediated spaces of communicative agency in that the performers were able to express their opinions, concerns, and impressions of white society via the print media, which was otherwise filled with reports of savagery and the civilizing project.

In addition to the above examples of Native performers observing, learning, and gazing back, instances of communicative agency are represented quite clearly in newspaper reports that include Native peoples' opinions about significant events, their rights, and the changes they were experiencing as a result of assimilation policies. For example, Native performers sometimes offered their own interpretation of the Indian Wars and the tensions between Native and white society. Commenting on the battle with Custer, for instance, Sitting Bull states that whites were culpable for the Indian Wars: "Palefaces found gold on my land in the Black Hills. They drove us away as they ... stole our horses. I fought for my people. My people say I was right." Even so, he says, they did not scalp Custer because they honored him as a great warrior. (69) Recall how the other interviews with Sitting Bull in Canada and at the Beacon Park barbecue in Boston consisted of a more positive portrayal of whites. Obviously, Native performers had a range of views and opinions about various subjects. As a result, newspaper reports sometimes consisted of narratives beyond the foe-to-friend and conquest discourses.

What is interesting is that while some of Sitting Bull's comments from the 1885 Canadian newspaper interview may be about peace and friendship, as outlined in the first part of this article, he is also clear on Native rights and living conditions in that same interview. Native peoples recognize the "inevitable supremacy" of the white man (according to the reporter), but the undertone of Sitting Bulls comments reveals his views on the morals and responsibilities of white society: "[He] hope[d] that the red man had enough self respect, and the white man enough honesty, to make the end of the controversy a peaceful one." Sitting Bull adds that "he only fought for his rights. He was sorry the white man was not as honest as he was full of brain power." (70) In the other interview from 1885, Sitting Bull discloses his opinion of white encroachment on Indian land and life and on the greed of white men:

   They are a great people, as numerous as the flies that follow the
   buffalo, the Indian cannot fight them. The palefaces want the
   earth, the corn, the tree, the sky. Indian only want wide prairie,
   where he can live in peace and safety, where he shall not be
   disturbed, and where he can die. Indian only want justice.
   Palefaces feel kind and will do us right. (71)

In his view, the paternalistic role of the government is one of responsibility and obligation rather than burden. Sitting Bull also comments on the president: "Great father is good. He order cattle man off our lands and protects us. Cattle man steal our horses and cattle and kill our game, and leave us to starve and die or fight. They rented land of two treacherous chiefs who had no right to do it." (72) Here, Sitting Bull communicates the state of Native peoples on reservations and their problems in adopting farming and ranching. Implicitly, his comments once again urge the government to live up to its end of the agreement and its responsibilities.

Other Native performers similarly expressed their opinions on processes of assimilation and acculturation, and the state of their existence. In an 1897 article, for example, Native performer Flat Iron comments on the changes his people faced:

   I have seen the Ogallalas [s/c] in the wars ... I have see the
   prairie black with buffalo.... Now I have see the great water and
   the spitting horse, and the white men come and look at me and say
   who is he? And I remember the days of my youth, and it is not good.
   I am going to see the Great Father at Washington and tell him that
   it is not good. The Indian is a good Indian. He will learn
   fast--only not too fast. He will die to learn too fast. The tepees
   of wood will kill him. The planting and the working with the
   planting will kill him. He will learn the way of the white man, but
   not too fast. It is not good. (73)

Red Shirt also states his opinion on the changes he has seen and his view of the future. These observations appear in the same interview where he refers to former Prime Minister Gladstone as a friend. His comments in this part of the newspaper report reveal sentiments of loss as a result of acculturation and Native peoples' dependency on white ways and society, yet here again, as with Sitting Bull's comments, there is also an expression of entitlement:

   The red man is changing every season. The Indian of the next
   generation will not be the Indian of the last. The buffaloes are
   nearly all gone ... [the deer have vanished] ... and the white man
   takes more and more of our land. But the United States Government
   is good. True it has taken away our land, and the white men have
   eaten up our deer and our buffalo, but the Government now give us
   food that we may not starve. They are educating our children, and
   teaching them to farm and to use farming implements. Our children
   will learn the white man's civilization and to live like him.

It is our only outlook in the future. Now we are dependent upon the rations of the Government, but we feel we are fully entitled to that bounty. It is a part of the price they pay for the land they have taken from us, and some compensation to us for having killed off the herds upon which we subsisted. (74)

He also declares in this article that if the government no longer continued payment, the Indians would starve, because tribes are no longer self-supporting. Red Shirt is quoted as saying that he knows it is no use fighting the government, and he accepts his fate, even if some of the young men still do not understand this.

Fiorentino takes a conservative view of Red Shirt's comments outlined above. He argues that reporters wrote about the Indians as if they had accepted their fate as vanishing, acculturated, and reliant on the government for assistance; Native people like Red Shirt represented the "good Indian," ready to accept the white man's ways. (75) In a similar vein, I have shown how newspaper reports promoted a foe-to-friend narrative as part of an evolving discourse of conquest and the civilizing project. However, reporters selected and edited the comments made by Native people to present their opinions in support of this discourse. The preceding discussion about Native performers' comments in newspaper reports demonstrates more purpose and meaning in these comments than merely acceptance of defeat. Newspaper reports include both discourses of conquest and the foe-to-friend narrative, as well as observations and critiques of white society and statements about Native rights and living conditions and the changes Native peoples were experiencing. At times, these views are expressed within the same article, as is the case with some of the interviews with Sitting Bull and Red Shirt. That newspaper reports contain these contradictory narratives, sometimes within the same article, indicates that Native performers' comments were strategic and intentional, speaking of friendship, on the one hand, while expressing their opinions and making political statements about their rights, on the other. In other words, Native performers were not simply engaging in narratives of conquest, they were negotiating this encounter by being diplomatic while at the same time critiquing white society and the condition of their people, resulting in a range of comments in newspaper reports that do not always support the foe-to-friend narrative and discourses of conquest.

Napier's suggestion that some Native performers acted in a "diplomatic and public role" similar to the role they had in their own tribes makes sense here. She argues that Native performers' ability to speak their views on white society reflects a "Lakota approach to political life" and that their comments reflect Lakota characteristics of self-control, generosity, wisdom, and tact: "Red Shirt, Rocky Bear, Standing Bear, Black Elk, and others show in their quiet demeanor, their stately bearing, their politeness, their ability to converse with great personages that they were well-trained Lakota." (76) would also include Buffalo Bill's Wild West show performers Sitting Bull, Red Shirt, Red Cloud, Iron Tail, and Flat Iron in this category of diplomat-performer. On this subject, scholars such as Reddin and Maddra point out that Indian agents selected the most hostile Native people, like the Ghost Dance prisoners, for Wild West shows, whereas Warren notes that Cody also hired peace advocates such as Spotted Tail and Two Bears. (77) Perhaps this is a matter of perspective. Many Native performers were warriors involved in important battles, a fact that show entrepreneurs highlighted in order to promote the authenticity of the show. But many were also diplomats, or persons with a political role among their communities. In fact, the roles (and status) of warrior and diplomat were often intertwined.

Sitting Bull, Red Shirt, Flat Iron, and Red Cloud have a history of this diplomatic role and their ability to be public spokespeople. Interestingly enough, these performers traveled to Washington DC and met with political leaders and government officials as representatives of their community while performing with the Wild West show. Sitting Bull is known as a great Hunkpapa leader and for his participation in the battle of Custer. He joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in 1885 but was no stranger to the performance circuit, having toured with Standing Rock Indian agent James McLaughlin and Alvaren Allen in 1884. (78) He also carried the flag and signed autographs in St. Paul, Minnesota, as part of a tour of fifteen American cities. One reason Sitting Bull agreed to touring with Allen in 1884 was so he could visit with President Grant. (79) It is likely that Sitting Bull expected similar experiences and opportunities for access with government officials while touring with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in 1885. According to Louis Pfaller, Cody did take Sitting Bull to Washington; in preparation for his meeting with President Grover Cleveland, "Sitting Bull had a member of the cast write out his wishes so that he could present them to the President." (80) Red Shirt, an Oglala-Brule, became leader of the Wagluhe (Loafer) band in 1878, then traveled to Washington dc in 1880 with a Native delegation that included Red Cloud. Red Shirt joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in 1887, but his diplomatic and public role appears to have continued in this context. He became the spokesperson among the Sioux troupe with the show. (81) (I have provided examples where Red Shirt spoke of friendship and evaluated the British prime minster based on Lakota qualities as well as cases where he spoke out about the condition of his people in the United States.) Other performers who traveled to Washington DC during their employment with Wild West shows include Red Cloud in 1897 and Iron Tail in the 1900s, for instance.

Influential friends, such as William "Buffalo Bill" Cody and Gen. Nelson Miles, may have facilitated these diplomatic encounters. Viewed another way, Native performers may have actively sought access to the press, political leaders, and government officials, at times through their relationship with Cody, who was well connected. It is probable that Native performers expressed their desire to make use of their access to political leaders and government officials during their employment and initiated arrangements for diplomatic visits. In fact, the press covered these "peace and treaty" meetings with Native diplomats who were also performers (both current and former) in Wild West shows. For example, on the way from one such meeting in Washington with Sioux American Horse in 1897, Red Cloud came to visit Flat Iron and Cody at Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in New York. (82) It appears that for some Native performers, their diplomatic and political roles were entangled with their experiences as performers. This is a fascinating connection that this article only begins to interrogate. What is evident from this analysis is that Native performers' comments found in newspaper reports do indeed reflect their "Lakota approach to political life" (or, more broadly, their political role as spokespeople for their tribes), and some of these Native performers continued to play the role of diplomat in the context of working and performing in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. They were called upon by their communities to act as representatives of their tribe, and this diplomatic and public role was not new to them. Perhaps Native performers were playing with the role of the "good (and conquered) Indian" while at the same time drawing on their experiences as diplomats. One thing is certain: they were politically aware spokespeople who tactfully discussed friendship and peace, seeking alliances, not enemies; but they also observed, evaluated, and critiqued white society, recognizing ethnic and class differences, and they spoke of injustices, Native rights, their current living conditions, and white society's responsibilities to Native peoples.


This article builds on the Wild West show literature and discussions of the representation of Native performers as well as scholarly research on Native travels abroad that seeks to better understand encounters between Native peoples and whites and their perceptions of each other. The foe-to-friend narrative found in the visual and print media in relation to Native performers with Buffalo Bills Wild West show, which highlights narratives of peace and friendship, is an extension of discourses about conquest and civilizing the Indian. An investigation of newspaper reports shed light on Native perspectives of white society and people, as well as class and ethnicity. Reporters wrote about Native performers as if their travels and working in Wild West shows were an educational and "civilizing" experience. However, from the perspective of some Native performers, the educational value of traveling with Wild West shows was not a matter of civilizing but rather an opportunity to learn and a tactic for survival. Native performers' statements about friendship were diplomatic, tactful, and strategic, perhaps as a means to build alliances in the white world; but they also expressed their opinions about the changes they were experiencing, the supposed civilizing and assimilation process, Native entitlements, and the responsibility of white society and the government to see that Native rights were protected and fulfilled. Native performers may be former foes and "friends of the white man," but they were also critics of their time.


This article is based on research conducted for my dissertation, which was made possible thanks to the Social Science and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship, the McMaster University School of Graduate Studies Fieldwork Funding, the Emslie Horniman Scholarship Fund awarded by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center Garlow Fellowship. Thank you to my committee members, in particular Dr. Trudy Nicks, and the blind reviewers of this article, all of whom have provided insightful feedback and comments on this research.


(1.) Kristen Whissel, "Placing the Spectator on the Scene of History: The Battle Re-enactment at the Turn of the Century, from Buffalo Bill's Wild West to the Early Cinema," Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 22, no. 3 (2002): 225-43. See also Joy S. Kasson, Buffalo Bill's Wild West: Celebrity, Memory, and Popular History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000).

(2.) Don Russell, The Wild West or, a History of the Wild West Shows (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, 1970). Pawnee Bill's Wild West and the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Wild West rivaled Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in terms of popularity, longevity, and success. For more on these shows, see Glenn Shirley, Pawnee Bill: A Biography of Major Gordon W. Lillie (Stillwater: Western Publications, 1993); and Michael Wallis, The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999).

(3.) See Sarah J. Blackstone, Buckskins, Bullets, and Business: A History of Buffalo Bill's Wild West (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986); Brooklyn Museum, ed., Buffalo Bill and the Wild West (New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1981); Joy S. Kasson, Buffalo Bill's Wild West: Celebrity, Memory, and Popular History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000); Jonathan D. Martin, '"The grandest and most cosmopolitan object teacher': Buffalo Bill's Wild West and the Politics of American Identity, 1883-1899," Radical History Review 66 (1996): 92-123; L. G. Moses, Wild West Shows and the Images of American Indians, 1883-1933 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996); Paul Reddin, Wild West Shows (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999); Richard Slotkin, "The 'Wild West,"' in Brooklyn Museum, Buffalo Bill, 27-44; Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America (New York: Atheneum, 1992); R. L. Wilson and Greg Martin, Buffalo Bill's Wild West: An American Legend (New York: Random House, 1998); Louis S. Warren, Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005); Richard White, "Frederick Jackson Turner and Buffalo Bill," in The Frontier in American Culture: An Exhibition at the Newberry Library, ed. James R. Grossman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 7-65.

(4.) Vine Deloria Jr., "The Indians," in Brooklyn Museum, Buffalo Bill, 45-56; Allan Gallop, Buffalo Bill's British Wild West (Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Limited, 2001); Kasson, Buffalo Bill's Wild West-, Sam A. Maddra, Hostiles? The Lakota Ghost Dance and Buffalo Bill's Wild West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006); Moses, Wild West Shows-, Reddin, Wild West Shows-, and Warren, Buffalo Bill's America.

(5.) Toby Morantz, "Plunder or Harmony? On Merging European and Native Views of Early Contact," in Decentering the Renaissance: Canada and Europe in Multidisciplinary Perspective 1500-1700, ed. Germaine Warkentin and Carolyn Podruchny (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 55.

(6.) This opinion is shared by other scholars, such as Deloria, "The Indians," and Moses, Wild West Shows.

(7.) See, for example, Colin G. Calloway, Gerd Gemunden, and Susanne Zantop, eds., Germans and Indians: Fantasies, Encounters, Projections (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002); Christian Feest, ed., Indians and Europe: An Interdisciplinary Collection of Essays (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999); and C. T. Foreman, Indians Abroad, 1493-1938 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943).

(8.) Daniele Fiorentino, '"Those Red-Brick Faces': European Press Reactions to the Indians in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show," in Feest, Indians and Europe, 403-14; Rita G. Napier, "Across the Big Water: American Indians' Perceptions of Europe and Europeans, 1887-1906," in Feest, Indians and Europe, 382-403.

(9.) Kasson, Buffalo Bill's Wild West, xx.

(10.) Elizabeth Edwards, introduction to Anthropology and Photography 1860-1920, ed. Elizabeth Edwards (New Haven ct: Yale University Press, 1992), 6.

(11.) Edwards, introduction, 12; and Joanna C. Scherer, "The Photographic Document: Photographs as Primary Data in Anthropological

Enquiry," in Edwards, Anthropology and Photography, 32.

(12.) Napier, "Across the Big Water," 383, 386.

(13.) Fiorentino, '"Those Red-Brick Faces,"' 405-9. See also Reddin, Wild West Shows.

(14.) Although Buffalo Bill's Wild West show toured across North America and Europe, this analysis is based on newspaper reports mainly from Britain, the eastern United States, and Canada. I draw on newspaper clippings from the McCraken Library-Buffalo Bill Historical Center (BBHC), the Denver Public Library (DPL), and the Western History Collection-University of Oklahoma Libraries at Norman (WHC). Newspaper clippings include show reviews, advertisements, and articles about the shows as well as articles about Native performers and their travels.

(15.) Slotkin, "The 'Wild West,"' 27. See also White, "Frederick Jackson Turner."

(16.) For more details and examples of this theme, see Slotkin, "The 'Wild West,"' 36-37; Warren, Buffalo Bill's America, 417-19. See also Martin, "'The grandest.'"

(17.) Reddin, Wild West Shows, 61.

(18.) Reddin, Wild West Shows, 75.

(19.) Markus H. Lindner, "Goggles, Family, and the 'Wild West': The Photographs of Sitting Bull," European Review of Native American Studies 15, no. 1 (2001): 41.

(20.) Jana L. Bara, "Cody's Wild West Show in Canada," History of Photography, Summer 1996, 153.

(21.) See also II-83126, Notman Photographic Archives, McCord Museum, Montreal, Quebec.

(22.) Bara, "Cody's Wild West Show," 153.

(23.) Louis Pfaller, "'Enemies in '76, Friends in '85': Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill," Prologue: Journal of the National Archives 1, no. 2 (1969): 23; also Lindner, "Goggles," 42.

(24.) See, for example, II-83124, II-83125, II-83127, and II-83122, Notman Photographic Archives, McCord Museum:

(25.) Bara, "Cody's Wild West Show," 153.

(26.) Colleen Skidmore, "Touring an Other's Reality: Aboriginals, Immigrants, and Autochromes," Ethnologies 26, no. 1 (2004): 149.

(27.) See Lindner, "Goggles," 41, 45-46.

(28.) Bara, "Cody's Wild West Show," 153; Lindner, "Goggles," 41.

(29.) Pawnee Bill's Wild West and Great Far East Courier, ca. 1908-9, M-360, box 13, FF17, WHC. Although the WHC lists this item as ca. 1908-9, it must be pre-1908, because it is not a program for the Two Bills combined show. Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and Pawnee Bill's Wild West and Far East show combined in 1908, when Gordon Lillie bought one-third of Buffalo Bill's show.

(30.) "Cow-boys and Indians," Times (Philadelphia), June 7, 1886, Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 18, reel 1, vol. 1, DPL.

(31.) "Red Cloud Comes to Town: The Great Sioux Warrior Visits His Friend Long Hair," Sun (New York), May 7, 1897, Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 16, reel 1, vol. 6, DPL.

(32.) Moses, Wild West Shows, 92-103, provides an in-depth examination of this case of mistreatment. See also Maddra, Hostiles?, 63-81; and Warren, Buffalo Bills America, 367.

(33.) "The American Exhibition and the ww show," Observer, April 24, 1887, series 2, copies box 3, FF8, DPL.

(34.) "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Center of Local Interest Today," Constitution (Atlanta), October 7, 1907, series IX, box 20, season 1907 scrapbook (gray with burgundy trim), BBHC.

(35.) "A Great Red Indian Fight," Millaud Daily Telegraph Coventry, February 28, 1903, MS6, series IX, 1903-4 scrapbook (microfilm), BBHC.

(36.) "Strange Experiences of Indian Chief and Squaw in the 'Wild East.'--Pleased by the Novelties ..." Sunday Globe (1897), Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 16, reel 1, vol. 6 (April-October 1897), DPL.

(37.) Moses, Wild West Shows, 5, 134. A similar contrast existed at the 1904 Exposition in St. Louis (see chapter 8 in Moses).

(38.) Raymond D. Fogelson, "The Red Man in the White City," in Columbian Consequences, Volume 3: The Spanish Borderlands in Pan-American Perspective, ed. David Hurst Thomas (Washington dc: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996), 85.

(39.) Paige Raibmon, "Theatres of Contact: The Kwakwaka'wakw Meet Colonialism in British Columbia and at the Chicago World's Fair," Canadian Historical Review 81, no. 2 (2000): 159, 179, 158, 160, 185-86.

(40.) "A Hereditary Chief. Death of Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse. His Life and Character. How He Came to Be Friendly to the Whites ...," July 23, 1893, MS6, series IX, box 8, 1893 scrapbook, BBHC.

(41.) "Great Scout Outlives Redskins Who Sought His Scalp," [Eagle?] (Wichita KS), July[?] 25, reprinted in Omaha Sunday Bee, August 13, 1911, series iv, box 2i, Johnny Baker scrapbook, BBHC.

(42.) "The Wild West Show. Buffalo Bill and His Band of Indians," [Montreal, 1885?], Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 18, reel 1, vol. 1, DPL. Maj. James Morrow Walsh was commissioned in 1875 by the North-West Mounted Police to establish a fort near Cypress Hill, Saskatchewan, which he named after himself, Fort Walsh. Part of his jurisdiction was the Wood Mountain area, where Sitting Bull and five thousand Sioux sought refuge after the battle at the Little Bighorn.

(43.) "Sitting Bull in Camp. Interview with One of General Custer's Murderers," Evening Journal (Detroit), September 5, 1885.

(44.) "A BBQ at Beacon Park: Eating Roast Ox with Sharp Sticks as Guests of Sitting Bull," Boston Daily Globe, July 31, 1885, Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 18, reel 1, vol. 1, DPL.

(45.) Deloria, "The Indians," 51-52; Moses, Wild West Shows, 28; Reddin, Wild West Shows, 80. Lindner also notes that during his 1884 "tour" in the United States with Indian agent James McLaughlin, Sitting Bull was celebrated because he was viewed as on his way to being civilized, even though he was simultaneously viewed as the "killer of General Custer" ("Goggles," 41).

(46.) Deloria, "The Indians," 51, 52; Moses, Wild West Shows, 28.

(47.) Kasson, Buffalo Bill's Wild West, xx.

(48.) Moses, Wild West Shows, 45.

(49.) '"Red Shirt' on Mr. Gladstone. A Big Indian Battle. The Future of the Red Man," Sheffield Leader, May 3, [1887?], series 2, copies box 3, FF41, dpl.

(50.) "'Red Shirt' on Mr. Gladstone."

(51.) "Chief Red Shirt," n.d., M-407, outsize scrapbook box 1, large black news clipping scrapbook, WHC.

(52.) Deloria, "The Indians," 54. See also McNenly Scarangella, Native Performers in Wild West Shows: From Buffalo Bill to Euro Disney (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012).

(53.) See Moses, Wild West Shows.

(54.) Napier, "Across the Big Water," 385.

(55.) Raymond J. DeMallie, The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk's Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt, ed. Raymond J. DeMallie (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), 245.

(56.) DeMallie, The Sixth Grandfather, 9-10, 11.

(57.) Napier, "Across the Big Water," 385.

(58.) There is no title for this article. It is possibly a continuation of the article on the same page as "Sitting Bull. A Half Hour in the Tent of the Great Sioux Chief--He Talks about the Campaign against His People," Evening Leader, September 13, 1885, Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 18, reel 1, vol. 1, DPL.

(59.) Moses, Wild West Shows, 51, 52.

(60.) Winifred Black, "A Red-Skinned Citizen from Pine Ridge Gives His Impressions of New York and of Some Things of Human Interest," New York Journal, n.d., Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 16, reel 1, vol. 6 (April-October 1897), DPL.

(61.) "Chief Last Man, Sioux, Thinks City Folks Crazy," 101 Ranch News, n.d., M-407, posters 169-24, WHC. The article also states that the chief had not been on the Pine Ridge Reserve since Wounded Knee, when he joined the 101 Ranch show. He's never in a hurry, writes the author of this article, except in warfare, as he was when he was leading warriors into the Wild West arena. The article includes a picture of Last Man and three other Indians presenting a tomahawk to Capt. George Metcalf, then eighty-six years old.

(62.) Joe Starita, The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1995), 147.

(63.) "Wild West Calls on Wild East. Indian and Cowboy See the Things That Make New York Life Interesting, and Describe Their Impressions of Them," World, May 2, 1897, Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 16, reel 1, vol. 6 (April-October 1897), DPL.

(64.) "Strange Experiences of Indian Chief and Squaw in the 'Wild East'--Pleased by the Novelties ..." Sunday Globe [1897], Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 16, reel 1, vol. 6 (April-October 1897), DPL.

(65.) "Wild West Calls on Wild East."

(66.) "Rain-in-the-Face Kisses the Blarney Stone, which He Termed the White Man's Idol. Marvelled at the Dudeen," no source, Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 16, reel 1, vol. 6 (April-October 1897), DPL. This article contains no date but is located in the 1897 scrapbook with another article entitled "Indians at the Irish Fair," World [New York], May 14, 1897, Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 16, reel 1, vol. 6 (April-October 1897), DPL. According to route books, Buffalo Bill's Wild West show was indeed touring the United States at this time. Although the article title suggests he kissed the Blarney Stone, and the show did tour England and Wales, this was likely an Irish fair in America.

(67.) Kathleen Buddle, "Media, Markets, and Powwows," Cultural Dynamics 16, no. 1 (2004): 34.

(68.) However, some Native performers before, during, and after their careers as show Indians were politically active and/or spokespeople. The connection between their performance careers and political life requires further research.

(69.) "Sitting Bull. A Half Hour."

(70.) "The Wild West Show. Buffalo Bill."

(71.) "Sitting Bull. A Half Hour."

(72.) "Sitting Bull. A Half Hour."

(73.) Black, "A Red-Skinned Citizen."

(74.) '"Red Shirt' on Mr. Gladstone."

(75.) Fiorentino, "'Those Red-Brick Faces,'" 407.

(76.) Napier, "Across the Big Water," 392, 396, 397.

(77.) Reddin, Wild West Shows, 75; Maddra, Hostiles?; Warren, Buffalo Bills America, 193.

(78.) Lindner, "Goggles," 41.

(79.) Bobby Bridger, Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull: Inventing the Wild West (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002), 314.

(80.) Pfaller, "Enemies," 23.

(81.) Moses, Wild West Shows, 44-45.

(82.) "Red Cloud Comes to Town." See also "Red Cloud Is Cody's Guest. Greatest of Indian Warriors Comes East on Errand of Peace," New York Herald, May 7, 1897, Nate Salsbury scrapbooks, microfilm 16, reel 1, vol. 6, DPL.
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Author:McNenly, Linda Scarangella
Publication:The American Indian Quarterly
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2014
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