Wild West Shows and the Images of American Indians, 1883-1933
An Ihanktonwan-Sicangu Sioux, explaining why he enjoyed his years spent performing in Wild West shows, remarked: "It gave me a chance to get back on a horse and act it out again". Between the 1880s and the 1930s Show Indians depicted their warfare with whites and portrayed scenes from their culture in productions that traveled throughout the United States and Europe and drew huge audiences - well over a million people in 1885 alone. Were they simply tipi-and-war bonnet Indians exploited by entrepreneurs like Buffalo Bill? That view, commonly held by reformers of the 1890s, has been uncritically accepted ever since. This book is the first to examine the lives and experiences of Show Indians from their own point of view. Their dances, re-enactments of battles, and village encampments, the author demonstrates, helped preserve the Indians' cultural heritage through decades of forced assimilation. This book also looks at Wild West shows as ventures in the entertainment business. By considering financing, scripting, recruitment, logistics, and public and creditor perceptions, L. G. Moses reveals the complexity of the enterprise and the numerous - and often contradictory - meanings the shows had for Indians, entrepreneurs, audiences, and government officials.
364 pp — ©1996