Title: "Red Indians in Camp" | What an English Paper Says of Buffalo Bill and His Show

Periodical: Omaha Herald

Date: January 1, 1888

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What an English Paper Says of Buffalo Bill and His Show.

Curiosity and Interest Exhibited by the Presence of the Indians—An Interview With Red Shirt.

The bona fide red man has at length arrived in the city of cotton, says the Manchester (Eng.) Umpire. [1] He is located on the Manchester race course, whither he has been planted by the enterprising Buffalo Bill and his myrmidons. The historic tribe of Sioux Indians, who gave such trouble to the trappers and settlers of the far west, who contributed to the slaughter of thousands of white men, whose object was to rob the savage of his natural inheritance#8212;they are here, and on the 17th of this month, or to speak specifically, on Saturday next they may be seen by the great body of the British public, living under canvas, and existing under the conditions peculiar to the primeval man, who scouted 300 years ago along the trackless prairies of the great American continent. Even the great queen of this great but insulated country has been to see them. She has taken the papoose by the hand, looked into the intelligent eyes of Red Shirt, bestowed a sympathetic glance on the squaws, and returned, feeling that America was certainly a great, if a somewhat peculiar country.

These are the people who are to entertain the public for the next few months. They are a great people, an interesting and a regal people. They occupy the highest pinnacle of savage pride and status. They have warred successfully against the United States, and have achieved innumerable deeds of heroism. In order to make them feel approximately at home, Col. Cody's lieutenants have erected a large wooden shed. This they have heated with steam and fixed it up with many modern appliances, such as gas, etc. Here the red man has pitched his tent. The tents are the real things, the canvas is old and dirty, and has the appearance of having been in use for a long time. Inside are placed mattresses, and on these the Indians repose. In the daytime they amuse themselves by playing cards and dominoes. Their whole nature seems on fire when they are gambling for shells or current coin. They are allowed every sort of liberty except that they are not permitted to take liquors. Their wearing apparel is the same as distinguished them at home. A sort of rough cloth is used for pants, and they have shirts constructed from some curious but undefinable material. Over head and shoulders they throw a blanket. They are then equipped. The children run about here and there, and talk smatterings of English. The squaws recline near the tents working bead work, sewing with a course needle, and using buffalo hide sinews for thread, and seeming as though trouble was an unknown quantity, and, in fact, never had such a thing as existence.

As a race they must strike a person with admiration. Their faces are generally highly intelligent. They have large heads, prominent features, high cheek-bones, and wear an aspect of repose such as is rarely found. The fact of the hairdresser not being an adjunct of civilization, they were obliged to wear their hair long. This gives them the appearance of women, although the innate strength of their countenances would betray the sex. The women are not particularly striking. They wear richly-colored dresses, short skirts, and are generally quiet and subordinate. The study of these ornithological characteristics is most interesting, and will form one of the great attractions of the show.

One would naturally think that a cigarette, though harmless in itself, would be one of those things that a real, unadulterated savage would shrink from. But not so. They are clean gone on the gentle weed. They lie about puffing the mixture of tobacco and white paper with great gusto and supreme delight. Indeed, their devotion to it gives you the notion that the Indian paradise will need a few good firms up there in order to supply a real want. After seeing the redskins of Bill Cody's show, it is impossible to conceive Indian comfort with out the proximity of the cigarette. The domino is also a valuable aid. There will have to be a few of these in store or there will be [fa] ctio [n] s. Cards are a great beverage, also, and I must speak seriously to Mr. Red Shirt about the advisability of running a new company in the happy hunting grounds. I know a few people who are ready to put up some "dollars" to start anything of that kind. The Indian will look out for it, and as tailors will doubtless be handy, a special pattern of a dress suit will go a long way to appease him. I am told that if there is one thing he covets more than the cigarette it is evening dress, and by the great Sitting Bull he ought to have it. One of the pappooses asked me if I had a match. I gave him one, and thereupon ventured upon the Hazardous opinion the "there wasn't much grit in them paper rolls."

The tribe have regular meal times allotted them. Two or three of the race course bars have been furnished with long tables, on which is laid the food. The organization supply tin vessels to take the food out of, and when the time comes for pitching in they go at it hammer and tongs until they are satisfied. And here be it explained, they are allowed as much as they can eat, and are not in any way stinted. They have, indeed, an easy life just now. But this is their vacation. On the 19th they will commence operations. They will then do two shows a day, and after they have submitted to an hour's inspection in camp by the spectators they will have done a pretty good day's work, and will be fully entitled to the remuneration they receive. All these details will be but imperfectly comprehended by our numerous readers, but when they have paid their visit to the show they will be able to realize its peculiarities.

I had a talk, through an interpreter, with Red Shirt. This gentleman is an admirable son of the prairie. He has a noble cast of countenance, and looks all over like one of nature's noblemen. He is such a man as would be chief in any enterprise he would be connected with. He has an eye like an eagle, a strong face, firm jaws, and withal an air of repose that denotes a man above his fellows. When one sees a man of this stamp we are not surprised at the stubborn nature of the contest with the whites. Red Shirt has lofty ideas. He perfectly sees the position of the red man, and, although bowing to the inevitable, carries in his breast all the traditions and aspirations of his race.

The management has arrived at the conclusion, that the press and distinguished people of the city deserve the best show. There will, consequently, be no public performance on Saturday morning. Such shining lights as Nat Salsbury, Dick Mansell, [2] William Calder, [3] and John M. Burke, Lew Parker, [4] and others, will be on the rehearse tactics, as they are strong in the belief that the Manchester public should have a really first-class show to begin with. We may expect a great evening and no error.

Note 1: The Manchester Umpire was a penny newspaper, subtitled "A Sporting, Athletic, Theatrical and General Newspaper," founded in 1884 in Manchester, England. [back]

Note 2: Dick Mansell is likely Richard Mansell, manager of a popular theater during 1888 in Manchester, England, known as Queen's Theatre. [back]

Note 3: William Calder, a partner of Richard Mansell, operating the Queen's Theatre. [back]

Note 4: Lew Parker (b.1849), manager of privileges for Buffalo Bill's Wild West who later wrote a book entitled Odd People I Have Met. [back]

Title: "Red Indians in Camp" | What an English Paper Says of Buffalo Bill and His Show

Periodical: Omaha Herald

Date: January 1, 1888

Topics: Buffalo Bill's Wild West in Britain

Keywords: American Indians Cigarettes Sioux nation Tobacco Trappers

People: Burke, John M., 1842-1917 Red Shirt, 1845?-1925 Salsbury, Nathan, 1846-1902 Sitting Bull, 1831-1890 Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901

Places: Manchester (England) Royal Queen's Theatre (Manchester, England)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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