Wičhóoyake kiη aglí—They Bring the Stories Back:

Connecting Lakota Wild West Performers to Pine Ridge Community Histories

Arthur Amiotte, One Cow (1999)

About


Welcome to Wičhóoyake kiη aglí—They Bring the Stories Back: Connecting Lakota Wild West Performers to Pine Ridge Community Histories

Emerging on the heels of the US military’s campaigns against the Plains Indians, Wild West exhibitions such as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West sought to capitalize on growing public nostalgia for a vanishing American frontier with American Indians at its mythic center. As the longest-running and most prominent Wild West show, its history is singularly intertwined with the community of Pine Ridge, beginning in 1885 when Sitting Bull joined the tour as a featured performer for one season. The Lakota leader’s notoriety elevated the exhibition to a position of commercial viability and helped cement its sustained professional interest in this community.

Sitting Bull and William F. Cody. Photograph, ca. 1885. D. F. (David Francis) Barry, 1854-1934. Buffalo Bill Online Archive MS6 William F. Cody Collection, McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West

This Collaborative Digital Editions Start-Up planning grant project, funded by a new program from National Historical Publications and Records Commission (National Archives) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, invites wider community conversations about the importance of Lakota performance, the circulation of Lakota arts and culture, and the legacy of these Wild West show travels today. It dovetails with the objectives of the grant that are aimed at expanding cultural diversity in American history by funding collaborative teams at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges, and/or other Indigenous and Native American tribal scholars and community members, and members of the Asian American community.

Our proposed digital edition of primary sources (texts, images, oral histories, and artifacts), focuses on Lakota community members who traveled across Canada, the United States, and Europe as Wild performing in over 3,000 locations during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It will demonstrate to scholars, students, and local community members just how unique and significant these performers’ experiences were to their families, to American culture, and to European conceptions of Lakota people. Taken as a whole, the digitized items in this archival project will tell the important but little-known history of these Lakota performers from the perspectives of their own communities in a way that will both educate and inspire future generations.

Native Americans in traditional regalia in front of tipis including Red Shirt and Little Bull.
Carte de Visite, ca. 1887. Buffalo Bill Online Archive MS6 William F. Cody Collection, McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Project Team

Co-Directors:

  • Valerie Janis, Archivist, Woksape Tipi Library & Archives, Oglala Lakota College. 605-455-6065. vjanis@olc.edu
  • Douglas Seefeldt, Associate Professor of History and Director, Digital History Ph.D. program, Clemson University. Senior Digital Editor, The Papers of William F. Cody. 864-656-3153. wseefel@clemson.edu
  • Former Project Co-Director, Tawa Ducheneaux, Archivist, Woksape Tipi Library & Archives, Oglala Lakota College

Community Collaborators:

  • Stella Iron Cloud
  • Cecelia Firethunder
  • Ernie LaPointe
  • Donovin Sprague
  • Amanda Takes War Bonnett

Project Personnel:

  • Emily Burns, Director, Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West, Associate Professor of Art History, School of Visual Arts University of Oklahoma
  • Frank Christianson, Professor of English, Brigham Young University, and Senior Editor, The Papers of William F. Cody
  • Andrew Jewell, Co-Director, Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (CDRH), Professor of Digital Projects, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries
  • Jeremy Johnston, Tate Endowed Chair of Western History, and Managing Editor, The Papers of William F. Cody, Buffalo Bill Center of the West
  • Emily Voelker, Assistant Professor of Art History, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
  • Laura Weakly, Metadata Encoding Specialist, Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (CDRH), University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries
  • Rebecca Wingo, Associate Professor of History and Director of Public History, University of Cincinnati
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