Title: The Red Man "On Tour" | A Chat with Mr. Nate Salsbury

Periodical: The Oracle

Date: May 28, 1892

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Our Interviews.



There can be scarcely a stranger or more striking episode in the history of nations than the sight of the representative "red man" on tour, as exemplified in the travels of the Wild West Show from America, which has gained deserved notoriety and excited intense interest in all the countries of Europe. Think of the last representatives of the proud, reserved Indian races being brought face to face with the wondrous forces of civilisation, and having perforce to admit the vast superiority of the white man all over the world. A party of Red Indians fresh from the blood-stained valleys and snow-clad mountains of the mauvaise terres—the Bad Lands—which formed the theatre of the stirring events at Pine Ridge which culminated in the establishment of what may be confidently hoped will be permanent peace between the redskin and his white brother—think of a body of such men as these in St. Paul's Cathedral, the temple of the heart of civilisation, listening to the soft, sweet music as it rises in the sacred fane: what more striking evidence could be given of the power of civilisation?

Such a train of thought as this naturally suggested itself to the representative of The Oracle, as a few days ago he sat in a tent in the Indian camp at the Wild West Show at Earl's Court, listening to the description given by Mr. Nate Salsbury (Colonel Cody's partner and director of the show), of the travels of the red man in different parts of Europe. The morning was bright and lovely, and as it was very early, and there were but few visitors, the Indians were lounging about in picturesque attitudes, enjoying the balmy air and the soft sunshine, which a real English May morning sometimes produces. The tent itself was luxuriously fitted. Magnificently-upholstered saddle-bag arm chairs stood around, in one of which sat the redoubtable Colonel Cody, more grey and grizzled than on his last appearance before an English public, for which no doubt the Indian war in Dakota has to answer, and with a far-away look in his eyes, which perhaps spoke of a longing for home and rest after a life of toil and travel such as falls to the lot of few. A fine tiger skin rug formed the carpet, while a handsome escretoire furnished the business-like Mr. Salsbury with the necessary writing materials for carrying on the vast enterprise which he seems to manage easily enough.

Mr. Salsbury himself is a man with a history. Not much past
his sun-burned cheeks and eagle eyes denote the man who has passed his days in stirring scenes; and the upright carriage and calm demeanour show one born to command and a leader of men. Truth to say, Mr. Salsbury looks more like what he was than what he is. Born in 1846, he went out with the first Illinois troops, and served through the entire Rebellion, being wounded three times, though the youngest enlisted soldier in the army of the Cumberland. As a matter of fact, he could not have been much more than fifteen years of age at the time. Subsequently he became an actor, and his travels are so extensive that he has acted before
in the world. Mr. Salsbury became interested some years ago in the cattle business in Montana, in which he invested heavily, and is now owner of a most valuable ranch in that country. During his repeated visits there he became deeply impressed with the striking scenes which were matters of everyday occurrence at the ranch, and naturally to an actor the first idea that presented itself was the feasibility of representing them to the public. He suggested the idea to Col. Cody, who fell in with it, and the Wild West Show was the outcome of that idea. Mr. Salsbury deprecates the tendency to look upon his show as a mere circus. He says it has a much more serious aspect, as illustrating
as it was in the days of the hardy pioneers, who paved the way in the face of almost insuperable difficulties for the America of to-day.

"Our exhibitions," he commenced, as with a contemplative look he filled his pipe, and sent the fragrant smoke curling in wreaths around his head; "our show has nothing in common with the ordinary professional exhibition. The merits of our performers are dependent on training of a natural kind. Our aim has been to make the public acquainted with the manners and customs of the daily life of the dwellers in the far West through actual and realistic scenes of life. At each performance marked skill and daring is presented; not merely an effect produced by constant rehearsal, and each scene presents a faithful picture of the habits of those we represent. The whole material of harness, etc., is genuine, and has already been seasoned by many years' experienced use in their original wilds."

"Your outfit is rather a big one, Mr. Salsbury?"

"Yes; but though we have on the ground over 400 cowboys, Indians, vaqueros, etc., we can put up the whole concern in two hours, and take it down in one. In one hour I can take every living creature off this ground, and put them, with every bit of property, on a train. We carry with us on our travels a portable grand stand, which will
"Your travels have been rather extensive since you were last in England, have they not?"

"Yes, we have given our exhibition in the principal cities of France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Germany, and since 1887 have crossed the Atlantic twice. Our outfit on a journey occupies 95 cars."

"How do the Indians like civilised travelling?"

"They seem to enjoy it very much. It is a great change from their life on the prairie. There they are nomads, but in our camp they are subjected to military rule, and see the white man at his best. We have not the slightest trouble with them; they seem to recognise the fact at once that they are under discipline, and have as keen ideas of right and wrong as the white man."

"They go about in the cities, I suppose?"

"O, yes; as, for instance, last Sunday they went to St. Paul's Cathedral, by invitation of the Dean. They were very much interested in what they saw there, particularly in Wellington's monument, which was pointed out to them as the tomb of one of our greatest soldiers. One of them made a somewhat comic remark upon being shown the tomb of a celebrity. Gazing thoughtfully at the mass of stone which surmounted the grave, he suggested to the interpreter that it was probable those who put the person in question there evidently did not intend him to get away again. We make it a point, wherever we take them, to let them see everything there is of interest; it gives them a better idea of the white man's power, and of the
We have, from time to time, employed over 1,000 Indians from various tribes and reservations of the United States, and it is something of a labour of love to bring new men as often as we can to assist the United States Government in educating these people. Of course, Colonel Cody's reputation among the Indians generally is very great, and they look up to him almost as a father. He has only to express a wish or desire and they at once comply with it."

"It has been suggested, Mr. Salsbury, that the riding of your men is done on trained horses?"

"Yes," with a gesture of strong contempt, "it has been suggested by men who know nothing about it. The American cowboy in the ring simply demonstrates the skill which to him is his profession. Any of these men at home will go into a herd of wild horses which have never had a human hand on them, and will put a saddle on a horse and ride him at once. If a cowboy were to 'funk' such a job, he would lose his situation. It would be impossible to find horses in the whole world that these men could not ride. As an instance, I may tell you that in Rome, the Prince of Sermoneta provided some wild horses, which he asserted no human being could ride. Colonel Cody said his men would ride them. Two were driven without saddle or bridle into the arena. In five minutes the cowboys had caught them with a lasso, saddled, subdued, and rode them all round the arena. Our challenge is
to bring any horse, under any condition, and if he keeps on his feet our men will ride him."

"And"—here remarked Colonel Cody—"they will ride him every minute. Throw and rope him, saddle and ride him. We shall only be too pleased if somebody will bring us some wild horses here, so that we can demonstrate our buckers are not trained."

Mr. Salsbury resumed, "If the public would philosophise for a moment they would soon admit that you cannot train a horse to hurt himself, and that is what these horses frequently do. Every English gentleman is supposed to know something about horses, and I am astounded that people don't generally recognise the truth without discussion. The fact is, the old trick mule of the circus lives in their memory, and they think our horses are the same. We show every conceivable kind of horsemanship. If you want tent pegging done our men will do that as well as any man in the British Empire, the feature of our riding being that it is purely original and natural. As an ethnological study I don't think there has ever been presented to the world such a wide field of study as this show presents. Just think for a moment. In this camp we speak
It is a remarkable thing that under the banner of what people look upon as an amusement enterprise should be found so much linguistic ability."

"I suppose you red men are fairly representative of the Indian tribes remaining?"

"Oh, yes; and these men are the brightest and best among them. There are still 285,000 Indians remaining in America at the reservations, divided into over fifty different tribes, and each speaking a different language. The interpreters are usually half-breeds, the progeny of what are called 'squaw-men,' that is, white men who, taking an Indian wife, live among the Indians, acquire the language, and become Indians to all intents and purposes. They are men who drift out to
and are really nomads by nature. Old John Nelson, the well-known trapper and guide, is a good specimen of these. He married the sister of Red Club, a noted Indian chief. He is over seventy years of age and rides like a young man still. If I can ride like he can when I get seventy years old," continued Mr. Salsbury, with a thoughtful look, "I shall think I am 'in town.'"

"Do your Indians hold religious services, Mr. Salsbury?"

"Yes, they do, but they make no parade about it, and you would never know they were going on. At the American reservations the various religious bodies are allowed to establish schools to educate the rising generation. But for all that I think way down in their hearts they still believe in their Great Manitou, and I don't think they apprehend
of their future life. They believe in a Good Spirit and a Bad Spirit, but they think any punishment of a violation of the tenets of their faith is received on earth. When an Indian dies his horse and dog are killed and buried in his grave with his weapons, so that he may be ready to follow the chase in the Happy Hunting Grounds. To my mind there is no creed of any Christian church that takes entire possession of   the mind of the aborigine. I think he lives in the faith of his fathers just as the white man does."

"How do they feed?"

"They are fed splendidly. They get meat three times a day, and every vegetable in the market. Very few hotels feed their guests better than we do our Indians. They work hard, and want good treatment. As to sanitary arrangements they are perfect. We have constant sanitary inspection, and the Indians would live in the water if they could."

"What about liquor?"

"No drink is allowed to be sold in the camp to any of our men, and we have Indians here whom you could not force to take liquor. But all know it is
and knowing that they submit without a murmur. Indians are very honourable in their dealings, and their word once passed is always adhered to. They are fond of money, but only for what it will buy. They have no miserly qualities, and all they get they spend on horses, ponies, and weapons, these things being the measure of their wealth?"

"I understand you have got a troupe of Cossacks in camp, Mr. Salsbury?"

"Yes, they arrived last night. They come from beyond Tiflis, near the extreme of the Caucasus Mountains. They are headed by Prince Ivan Makharadze, and are under the charge of an interpreter called Tom, whose life is a romance in itself. He was of English parentage, and was born in London, but was kidnapped when under three years of age and taken to Russia. He was adopted by a French family, and has lived in the Caucasus ever since. These are genuine Don Cossacks, and we claim they are the first of their class who have ever left their country except in a war. The Cossack is different from a cowboy inasmuch as he is really a soldier and a
Their riding consists mainly of tricks on horseback, and I am very anxious to see what they can do in that line. We cannot try them yet, as their wiry little horses need rest after their long journey. These men were brought over by the energy and enterprise of M. Ercolé, the great Parisian agent, who was nearly in prison half-a-dozen times over his job. We have had to guarantee the return of these men to the Russian Government, our Ambassador in St. Petersburg being the guarantor. We shall probably get these men to ride next week."

As Mr. Salsbury spoke, several of the Cossacks approached. They were apparently sauntering round the camp out of curiosity, and presented a picturesque appearance with their astrachan caps and long dark red coats and top boots. They are small, undersized, but wiry-looking men. Mr. Salsbury continued:—"Next month we shall be able to
to the British public, viz., a small band of genuine Gauchos from South America. These men are to the South what the cowboy is to North America, and use a triple thong of leather with three lead balls on it, in place of, and for the same purpose as, the lasso. We shall then be in a position to exhibit specimens of all the finest horsemen the world has ever seen, and we lay particular stress on the fact that we vouch for the genuine character of these men. I believe a Gaucho has never before been seen in Europe. When we have got them experts will be able to compare the respective merits of the cowboy, the Cossack, and the Gaucho in real rough-riding, which is, after all, the only thing we profess to do, but which is the most dangerous and difficult riding possible."