Lecture Six: The Cowboy and the Indian
October 19, 2011
Colonialism in North America
What make this colonization different is that when the settlers came, they
decided to stay on the land permanently.
- Other colonies would come to new lands, build structures and eventually leave
when everything was settled.
Not just an event, it is a structure - system of laws, policies and institutions (P.
Three Main Ideas about Settlers Deriving from Southern Colonialism
1. Settlers establish themselves as the original and rightful inhabitants of the land
This was used to justify the settling of people to new lands. They claimed to be
the rightful inhabitants to the land that they have settled on, regardless of the
people who were originally living on the land.
2. Indigenous people: constructed as dead, dying or having already disappeared.
This claimed that it was okay to settle on the land because the people who were
originally living on the land were basically on their way out. It doesn’t matter that
the settlers were taking their land because they would not need the land soon
3. People of color: always outside/foreign to the nation
Even non-indigenous people were considered to be on the fringe of society and
did not truly belong.
Colonialism in Everyday Life
There is a desensitized approach to colonialism and its implications.
- Yellowbird essay: there were cowboys and Indians in the grocery store
- Cowboys are considered to be better than the Indians, even to the Native
population. - Natives cut their long hair: it was associated with being Native, cut their hair
short like cowboys
- Halloween costumes are historically inaccurate and only further the stereotypes
Cowboys and Indians Across Time
The Dime Novel (mid-late 1800’s)
These were novels printed on newsprint and sold for either 5 or 10 cents apiece.
The plot (simplified): there were natives portrayed as savages living on a land.
White settlers would come to the land, usually in a peaceful manner. There would
be some sort of confrontation between the settles and the Natives, which the
settlers would win.
These were popular for more than 100 years
- At the time, Native people were being pushed off their reserves
- Was popular interest at the time
- One of the most popular dime novel heros
- Was a rider of the pony express
- Lead to his own show
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (late 1800’s)
Due to the popularity of the dime novels with the same character, a live show
was created using the same character.
- There were circuses and animals and a live show with cowboys and Indians
- Was a type of “reality” show
This was also extremely popular because it was live-action. There were “real”
cowboys and “real” Indians fighting and acting as if they were in the Wild West.
People were interested in this because it was going on in real life on a daily
Soon, interest in live-action waned when Hollywood and movies became popular.
The Silent Era (Early 1900’s)
One of the very first films was based on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It was
created by Thomas Edison and came out in 1894. Cowboy Talkies (1930-1950s)
After the Silent Era, movies began to have audio.
- Even more stereotypes about the cowboy/Indian emerged with this new
John Wayne was one of the most popular actors of these types of movies.