Wild West Shows

Apatohsi Piikunii actors bringing in the buffalo in Pat Provost's Wild Horse Show and Buffalo Chase, Brocket, Alberta, 1997
Photograph by Morgan Baillargeon, CMC 97-585

The idea of using the skills of the cowboy to entertain and educate people about the ways of the Old West originated in the 1880s. The most famous Wild West show was Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West. These performances captured the public's imagination and turned rodeo into a popular sport.

In the numerous Wild West shows held throughout the country in the late 1800s, Native people gave dramatic performances, re-enacting battle scenes, buffalo hunts, attacks on settlers and ceremonial activities. Soon troupes of Native actors were travelling in Europe, the United States and Australia. Wild West shows provided employment for Native people, and gave them an opportunity to escape the confinement of the reserve, and a means of preserving, although in a limited way, their traditional lifestyle, culture and language.

Young actor aiming a gun at the camera, 101 Ranch, Wild West show, Oklahoma
Western History collections, University of Oklahoma Library No. 2347 in the Lenders Collection

Today, riding and roping skills are still being sought for Wild West shows. Pat Provost, Piikunii, from Brocket, Alberta; Philip Whiteman, Tse-Tsehése-stahase from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana; and Disneyland Paris are among those who offer such shows.

Philip Whiteman's troupe of Tse-Tsehése-stahase warriors in a Buffalo Bill Wild West show re-enactment, Cody, Wyoming, 1996.
Left to right: Jack Real Bird, Waylon Walks Along, Edwin White Man, Darrell Black Wolf, Philip Whiteman, Warren Spang, Julio Brady, Perry Big Left Hand, David Whiteman, Woodrow Black Wolf
Photograph by Morgan Baillargeon, CMC K96-1002

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Introduction | Indian Days and Parades | Wild West Shows | Indian Villages and Pow-wows | Mounted Police | Entertainers | Motion Picture Industry