“I wish to impress upon your minds that what you are about to witness is not a performance in the common sense of the term.”
This is the story of the Wild West’s end and the close of the frontier.
The West is settled. The buffalo are gone. The US government is seeking to assimilate Native Americans. In this environment, a religious movement promising a restoration of traditional indigenous life, called the Ghost Dance, is spreading across the continent. Fearful of it, the government sends the military to arrest Lakota Ghost Dancers. It ends in tragedy near Wounded Knee Creek. For Native Americans, this is the end of the frontier.
Meanwhile, William Cody, a.k.a., “Buffalo Bill,” is keeping the Old West alive through an incredible performance: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. He’s obsessed with authenticity, only hiring actual cowboys, vaqueros, Native Americans, gunslingers, and others. For Bill, progress is the story of the frontier.
Professor Frederick Jackson Turner says the frontier is over and the nation has progressed. Frederick Douglass has a different view. We’ll take in all these different perspectives as the sun sets on the Old West.
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