Army scout, buffalo hunter, Indian fighter, and impresario of the world-renowned "Wild West Show," William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody lived the real American West and also helped create the "West of the imagination." Born in 1846, he took part in the great westward migration, hunted the buffalo, and made friends among the Plains Indians, who gave him the name Pahaska (long hair). But as the frontier closed and his role in "winning the West" passed into legend, Buffalo Bill found himself becoming the symbol of the destruction of the buffalo and the American Indian. Deeply dismayed, he spent the rest of his life working to save the remaining buffalo and to preserve Plains Indian culture through his Wild West shows.
This biography of William Cody focuses on his lifelong relationship with Plains Indians, a vital part of his life story that, surprisingly, has been seldom told. Bobby Bridger draws on many historical accounts and Cody's own memoirs to show how deeply intertwined Cody's life was with the Plains Indians. In particular, he demonstrates that the Lakota and Cheyenne were active cocreators of the Wild West shows, which helped them preserve the spiritual essence of their culture in the reservation era while also imparting something of it to white society in America and Europe. This dual story of Buffalo Bill and the Plains Indians clearly reveals how one West was lost, and another born, within the lifetime of one remarkable man.