Title: Buffalo Bill Is Home Again

Periodical: Herald

Date: November 19, 1890

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He Discusses General O'Beirne in a Slightly Partisan Fashion and Intimates that He Runs the Indians.


These Sun Dances and the Like, the Scout Thinks, Are Worth Watching, for They May Be Preludes to War.

Colonel William F. Cody, better known under the distinctive title of "Buffalo Bill," arrived here yesterday on the steamship La Normandie. He was detained eighteen hours at Quarantine on account of a Hungarian steerage passenger, who was suffering from smallpox.

Because of the delay the company's agent took off the cabin passengers on the steamboat George E. Starr, and upon her I met the returning voyager.

Time has turned the scout and showman's flowing brown hair to iron gray, his goatee and mustache are nearly white and there are crowfeet evident as marks of the flight of time. Otherwise he is erect, hearty and handsome, and the breadth of his sombrero is as generous as ever. He will remain here a few days, then he will visit Washington, and from there go to his ranch at North Platte, Neb.


He says that during the winter he will explore Mexico, Peru and other South American countries in search of cliff dwellers, Aztecs, Dodos, or any inanimate curiosity that will add strength to the big show he expects to manage in Chicago during the World's Fair.

I asked if he had heard of General O'Beirne's charge that he had grossly ill-treated the seventy-five Indians taken to Europe with the Wild West Show. He answered:—"Yes, I heard of it; but he does not know what he is talking about. The only knowledge General O'Beirne has of Indians he got while the agent of a petty tribe. I asked Indians about O'Beirne. They told me that he talked too much, and I fancy that he has not reformed in that respect. If we had not kept faith with our Indians we would have heard from Secretary Noble [1] long ago.

"If O'Beirne is running the Indian Department of the government I am not aware of it. He cites the case of Little Chief, who returned to America with $500, and charges that the money was won by gambling.

"Little Chief never gambled. His salary was $50 a month; he worked steadily for two years and he saved his money. After leaving Paris, in order to reduce expenses for our tour of the provinces, some of the Indians were sent back to their reservation. Since the show went into winter quarters the remainder were sent home, and every man, woman and child wants to be employed by us next season."

"Where did your Indians come from?" I asked.


"From the Pine Ridge Agency, and I will procure seventy-five from the same place next spring. We made a separate contract with each Indian, by which he was compelled to send from $15 to $20 of his pay home every month, and we had an equally explicit agreement with the government as to our treatment of the aborigines."

Referring to Indian character, he said:—"Indians are as easily controlled as children, but you must keep your promises to them to the letter. That I have always done, even many years before I employed Indians for my Wild West Show.

"I see," he said with a smile, "that O'Bierne threatens to force an investigation of my treatment of our Indians." Then with sarcasm, "Perhaps, however, Mr. Noble has bowed to Mr. O'Beirne's superior knowledge of Indian affairs and secretly transferred the management of all the reservations to that extraordinary gentleman.

"The theory of the government's management of the Indian is that he should be made self-supporting. Therefore when I employ Indians and comply with the agreement with Mr. Noble to feed, clothe and pay them for their services, we are advancing in a practical way the ideas of the government."


I asked his opinion of the reports from Dakota that give promise of an Indian war. He replied:—

"If this was spring instead of winter the situation would be serious, as the Indians could then sweep over the country and have twenty thousand defenceless settlers at their mercy."

"Will the Indians fight this season?" I inquired.

"I think not. Indians dread winter warfare. If it were spring there would be a general uprising. They are discontented, and claim that the government has not kept its agreements with them in rations or by paying for their land. These Indians know that the harder they fight the more presents they will get from the government when peace is proclaimed. If war comes and General Miles is in command and not handicapped he will quickly crush it."

Colonel Cody considers the chief cause of dissatisfaction among the Indians is the disregard the government has for agreements made with them. Experience, he said, had taught him that the whites invariably break a promise first.

I asked him what effect the dances and the religious influences of the alleged "Messiah" would have on the Indians. He answered:—"The sun and other religious dances were in old times performed before every warlike undertaking. These celebrations have been less frequent of late and their revival portends trouble. These dances so inflame young warriors that no power can keep them off the warpath.

"Then, in their present starving condition, with winter coming on, the Indians are desperate and rife for a warlike movement. An Indian war is invariably preceded by a period of fanatical frenzy. This alleged coming of the Messiah will be used by designing chiefs to urge the young braves to murder, fire and pillage."

Note 1: John Willock Noble (1831-1912) served as United States Secretary of the Interior between 1889 and 1893. [back]

Title: Buffalo Bill Is Home Again

Periodical: Herald

Source: McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West , MS6.3772.015.02

Date: November 19, 1890

Topic: Lakota Performers

Keywords: American Indians Contracts Ghost dance Paiute Indians Passenger ships Ranches Nebraska Smallpox Sun dance United States. Office of Indian Affairs United States. Office of Indian Affairs. Pine Ridge Agency World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.)

People: Little Chief, b. 1851 Miles, Nelson Appleton, 1839-1925 Noble, John W. (John Willcock), 1831-1912 O'Beirne, James Rowan, 1844-1917

Places: Chicago (Ill.) Hungary Mexico North Platte (Neb.) Paris (France) Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (S.D.) Washington (D.C.)

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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