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He followed a uniform mode of hiring performers. After receiving initial approval bythe U.S. Department of the Interior, an agent of the was sent to the PineRidge and/or Rosebud Indian reservations. Upon his arrival, the agent would chose fromamong the many applicants. Once the initial offer of employment was made, the prospectiveperformer was issued a written contract, which a Native American interpreter translatedfor him/her. In it, Cody made a solemn promise that each individual would be treated well,fully supported, and returned home in good health. Also, a portion of each man's pay wasto be sent home for the support of his family. In return, the Native American actors wereasked to follow three guidelines: to perform in all shows, to abide by all rules andregulations, and to remain sober while on tour. Their efforts would earn them a salary of$25 per month, rather respectable for the time.

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First, it is important to recall that Cody's show toured during this crucial time inthe history of the American West. The Indian Wars on the frontier were approaching an end,and years of U.S. propaganda regarding war atrocities had stirred great hatred andresentment against Native Americans. Moreover, scientific and popular opinion confirmedthe innate superiority of one race over another. and these "Indians" had shownothing of the culture and sophistication of their white counterparts. In all of theseways, racial antagonism and historical enmity poisoned the very core of white-NativeAmerican relations.

The Deg Hitan are a traditional Athabaskan Indian tribe of Alaska.

We are a non-profit organization working to preserve and promote American Indian languages.

It is therefore unsurprising that Wild West audiences were so universally fascinated byNative Americans. Whites and Native Americans no longer fought in open conflict, and thetwo cultures now had to reconcile themselves with co-existence. In this respect, Cody'sshows were much more than mere spectacle. They offered the general public a unique,personal experience of Native American history, culture, and lifestyle. And by presentingthis information in entertaining -- though somewhat biased -- fashion, the Wild West laidthe foundation for the entire "western" genre of books and movies in thetwentieth century.

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It is difficult to get a true sense of how Cody felt about Native Americans by simplyreviewing the biographical facts of his life. As a boy in Kansas, for instance, he boastedgreat friendships with young braves from the nearby Kickapoo Indian tribe, even learningto speak their language. But he also claimed to have killed an Indian... at the age ofeleven. Which one of these incidents points to the "real" Billy Cody?

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The answer is probably both. The frontier in the mid-1800's still was not a safe placeto live, and settlers had to prepare themselves for the possibility of conflict with theIndians. The type of warfare mentality created a feeling of distrust and hostility on bothsides. At the same time, however, the day-to-day interaction between Native Americans andwhites -- through trading, for instance -- eased some of the more blatant prejudices ofthe period. The result? A contradictory mixture of friendship and distrust, fear andrespect, hostility and esteem.

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The supporters of the Dawes Act not only wanted to destroy the Indian tribal loyalties and the reservation system but also to open up the reservation lands to white settlement. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land remained after the individual 160-acre allotments had been made. These parcels were then sold at bargain prices to land-hungry whites.

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Although it would have been far easier simply to hire white actors to play the role ofIndians, Cody refused to allow this. He did so not for mere marketing purposes (though hedid advertise his was the only show with "real Indians"), but rather out of arespect for their unique cultural heritage, which no white man could possibly mimic."I can put a pair of boots, a bit hat, and a red shirt on any man, call him acowboy," Cody once told a reporter, "but I cannot dress anyone up and call himan Indian." To Cody, the quality of "Indian-ness" was not superficial, butwas tangible and real. It was also apparently fragile, as Cody's general policy was tohire actors for only a single season, for he felt such touring lessened their"Indian" qualities. The only Native Americans allowed to stay longer were thoseemployed as translators or trainers for the new recruits.