As it turns out, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody is a major player in the trilogy. Perhaps it's because Cody not only lived the mythological Western lifestyle in his younger days, but later dramatized it as a show-business figure apparently rent with guilt over the white man's destruction of the centuries-old Plains Indian culture.
The common theory blasts Cody for exploiting the Indians in his Wild West shows, but in a new biography, Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull: Inventing the Wild West, Bridger makes a different assertion, one supported by such American Indian scholars as his Colorado friend Vine Deloria Jr., also a defender of alternate theories in his book, Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact. Bridger will grace his protagonist's local memorial, the Buffalo Bill Museum, 987 Lookout Mountain Road, Golden, with a talk, book signing and possibly a brief performance at 2 p.m. Saturday, February 8.
Museum spokesman Steve Friesen couldn't be more thrilled. Cody, or "Pahaska" as the Indians called him, "gave the Lakota and other Indians an opportunity to leave the reservations and to demonstrate their culture and, in some ways, preserve a way of life at a time when so many forces were trying to put it down," he notes. "He was criticized by reformers in Washington, D.C., who said he was encouraging Indians to continue their bloodthirsty ways, but he said we needed to understand them better. He felt the Indians had to make way for civilization, but on the other hand, he thought it was not right for civilization to grind them underfoot in the process."
Bridger, a Cody look-alike himself, right down to the white goatee and rugged buckskins, promises to bring this theory to life with the same kind of sweeping stage panache Cody possessed. The demise of the Old West quite possibly never looked -- or sounded -- better. Not a bad read, either. For information, call 303-526-0744.