Oskate Wicasa, Progressive Thought, and the Digital Publics of Buffalo Bill's Wild West

Among the more unique offerings William F. Cody provided his audiences was the presence of Lakota performers, who called themselves oskate wicasa. Hundreds worked for Cody between 1883 and 1917, and through their performances helped cement in the American mind the image of Native people as horse mounted and teepee dwelling peoples. Yet the involvement of Lakota in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West illustrates a deeper point about Progressive thought at the turn of the century. Public battles between William F. Cody and the Office of Indian Affairs points to the varieties of Progressive thought surrounding Native peoples and their culture, religion, and ways of life. Battles between what I call Assimilationist Progressives and Autonomous Progressives is explicated through a digital history project called “‘Self-sustaining and a good citizen’: William F. Cody and the Progressive Wild West,” an attempt to not only take advantage of opportunities afforded to digital techniques but also reach broader publics interested in the history of oskate wicasa and their relationship with Cody’s Wild West. This paper, thus, addresses a variety of publics: those audiences of various class and political backgrounds to partook in Cody’s Wild West, and the publics of our own time and their engagement with digital history.

Host: Western History Association | Nov 1, 2017


Greetings! My name is Jason Heppler. I am a Digital Engagement Librarian and Assistant Professor of History at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a scholar of the twentieth-century United States. I often write here about the history of the North American West, technology, the environment, politics, culture, and coffee. You can follow me on Twitter, or learn more about me.