The Indians in England, 1887 - 88 


Wild West Indians in London, 1887
(Red Shirt is the central figure)


The following paragraph, from the New York Times, 1st April 1887, enumerates twenty-two of the Indians who sailed out of New York on the previous day on board the State of Nebraska:

Mr. and Mrs. Walking Buffalo, in apple green flannel, stood near the gong, into which they peered with devouring curiosity. When, later, somebody struck it, they started back in affright and said something about their ancestor’s beard in Indian. Monsieur and Madame Eagle Horse, the latter with a juvenile Eagle Horse on her back, promenaded the deck like tigers and uttered cunning little whoops, which to the initiated expressed satisfaction tempered with awe. Seated in the steerage and shivering as the March winds bleakly struck them were Moccasin Tom, Blue Rainbow, Wounds-One-Another, Throws-Away, Rushing Bear, Arrow Mound, Returns-From-Scout, Big Leggins, Spotted Eagle, Picket Pin, Tall Medicine, Iron Good Voice, Pawnee Killer, Double Wound, and Mr. and Mrs. Cut Meat, with their baby.

An analysis of this list of names can be offered. The following are also known from both the official programme and the return (Persian Monarch) passenger list:

Mr and Mrs Walking Buffalo; Blue Rainbow; Wounds-One-Another

Eagle Horse is known from the programme and he and his wife from the return passenger list. Juvenile Eagle Horse is not otherwise known under that name but is perhaps to be identified with Seven-Up, aged 4, who is known from the return passenger list.

There are two separate individuals called Spotted Eagle who are known from both the programme and the return passenger list.

The following are known from the programme but not from the return passenger list:

Throws-Away; Rushing Bear; Returns-From-Scout; Picket Pin; Tall Medicine; Iron Good Voice

Moccasin Tom is presumably the same man as ‘Mocassin Top’, listed as Chief of the Brulé Sioux in the programme. He is not found under either name on the return passenger list.

Arrow Mound is almost certainly to be identified with Arrow Wound, known from the programme but not from the return passenger list.

Big Leggins, otherwise Big Leggings, known from the programme but not the return passenger list.

Pawnee Killer is a probable match for Kills Pawnee, who is known from the programme but not from the return passenger list.

As regards Mr and Mrs Cut Meat, with their baby, Cut Meat is known from the programme but not from the return passenger list; his wife and child are not otherwise known under this name.

Double Wound is not otherwise known. The likelihood that this name is a variation on Wounds One Another is much reduced by the fact that they are both listed in the same context.


Red Shirt (Ogila Sa) was the much-publicised chief of the Indian camp throughout.

There were two Indian fatalities during the 1887-88 season. The first of these was Red Penny, aged eighteen months, the infant son of Little Chief. He died of convulsions at the Wild West camp, West Brompton, London, on 15th August 1887. Surrounded, 22, died of pneumonia at the Salford Union Infirmary, Pendleton, Salford, not long after the move north, on 14th December. In each case, the informant was Broncho Bill Irving. Both fatalities were interred at Brompton Cemetery, London.

On Tuesday, 29th November 1887, Blackbird was convicted by the Aston magistrates of being drunk, after he had been found in a state of incapablity in the Reservoir Tavern on the Lichfield Road on the previous night, Monday 28th. His name is not otherwise known in connection with the 1887-88 season.

Little Chief was in some measure compensated by the birth of a daughter, in the Wild West camp in Salford during the early hours of Wednesday, 8th February 1888. The child, Frances Victoria Alexandra, was baptised at St Clement’s Church, Salford, a week later, on Wednesday, 15th. The Courier, 16th August 1888, identifies Good Robe as Little Chief’s wife and the mother of the child. The same source discloses that the child would be known among her own people as Over the Sea and mentions Eagle Heart, Little Bull and Blue Horse as ‘chiefs’, though only Little Bull, billed as chief of the ‘Araphoes’, is accorded this status by the programme.

Blue Horse also features in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 1st December 1887. In this article, his status and activities as a medicine man are described in detail.

Of these various Indians referred to thus far, it may be noted that Red Penny, Surrounded, Good Robe and Blackbird are not known from the list of Indians in the official programme. This may be accounted for by the fact that Indians of this era were frequently known by different names.

Black Elk
With the possible exception of Red Shirt, the best-known Indian from the 1887-88 season is Black Elk (also known by his boyhood name, Choice), made famous from John G. Neihardt’s assisted autobiography, Black Elk Speaks, which contains two chapters devoted to his Wild West (mis-)adventures during 1887-88. When the Wild West departed Salford on Friday, 4th May 1888, Black Elk and a knot of companions missed the roll call and then failed to rejoin the main party before it sailed from Hull on the Persian Monarch two days later. According to the version of events given in Black Elk Speaks, six Indians were left behind but there is important contemporary evidence indicating that there were only four. They made their way to London where they enlisted with a rival Wild West showman, Mexican Joe, with whom they toured England, France and Belgium. During his time with Mexican Joe, Black Elk became dangerously ill and was abandoned for a second time. Following a number of trials and tribulations, his salvation came when he was reunited with Buffalo Bill in Paris during the spring of 1889 and the showman gave him his fare home.

The Indians are listed in the official programme for the 1887 London season, together with their (mostly fictitious) tribal affiliations and their names in ‘Indian’ (i.e. in all cases, Lakota). The surprisingly high total of 104 names emerges though the women and children are not identified as such, if indeed at all. The English versions and, for what these may be worth, the tribal divisions ascribed to them are reproduced here:


Chief of the Sioux Nation

Red Shirt


Cut off Band of Sioux

Flies Above, chief; Medicine Hill; Bull Man; Spotted Eagle; Red Nest; Blue Rainbow; Wounds one another; Wounded; Eagle Elk; Eagle Heart; Arrow Wound; Swift Hawk; Slow White Bull; White Horse; Dog’s Ghost; Rocky Bear; Three Bears; White Bird; Cheyenne Butcher; Returns from Scout


Araphoes

Little Bull, chief; White Star; Good Boy; Medicine Horse; Spotted Eagle; Red Owl; Charging Eagle; Kills close to Lodge; American Bear; Red Hawk; Makes Good; Running Bear; Fights all Alone; Broken Thigh; Little Big Man; Red Dog


Cheyennes

Cut Meat, chief; Boy; Stands on Hill; Yellow Horse; Short Elk; Black Elk; Piece of Iron; Raised; Little Horse; Runs Close; Cut Foot; Medicine Elk; Black Kettle; Black Bonnet; Red Sack; Tall Medicine; Big Leggings


Brule Sioux

Mocassin Top (otherwise Mocassin Tom), chief; Yellow Hair; Hollows Behind; Badger; High Bear; High Eagle; Throws away; Rushing Bear; Ground; Stands up; Two Eagles; Kills close to Hill; Bissonett (otherwise Oksila, signifying ‘Boy’); Standing Rabbit; Doe Elk; Yankton; Big Foot; Hand


Shoshones

Poor Dog, chief; Walking Bull; Runs close to Lodge; Iron Good Voice; Two Eagle Boy; Gives away Horses; Little Whirlwind; Kills Plenty; Black; Torn Blanket; White Lightning; Standing Elk; Sword; Old Black Bear; Kills Pawnees


Ogalallas

Little Chief, chief; Picket Pin; Sorrel Horse; Standing Bear; Kills First; Black Heart; Mouse; White; Good Light; Milk; Eagle Horse; Spider; Blue Horse; Two Lance; Little Wound; Grey Blanket; Big Ribs


I cannot personally guarantee that so many as 104 Indians were ever involved on the tour. The photograph of the company at Earl’s Court which is reproduced by Alan Gallop at pp. 60-61 of Buffalo Bill’s British Wild West appears to suggest a lower figure, in the region of sixty-two, of whom six were women.

The Wild West was absent from the United States for over a year and it may be taken that the Indians, as on other occasions, began to drift back across the Atlantic while the season was in full swing. On the evidence of the Persian Monarch passenger list, the strength of the Indian contingent at season’s end was roughly one half of what it had been claimed to be at the start. One substantial party departed during September 1887, though the identities of these individuals have yet to be established.

A telegram from Philadelphia, states that nine Indians of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show returned to New York on Tuesday on the steamer Wyoming because the English climate did not agree with them. They left on Wednesday evening for Nebraska.

Hampshire Advertiser, 1st October 1887

The main body of forty-eight Indians was included in the party which sailed from Hull on 6th May 1888 on board the Persian Monarch, arriving from at New York on the 21th:

Red Shirt, 41; Bull Man, 30; Boy, 25; Jimy Basnet, 19; Stand Up, 16; Blue Rainbow, 21; Wounded, 30; Badger, 25; Raised, 14; American Bear, 29; Two Eagles, 28; Little Horse, 24; (Lewis ?), 20; Red Howl, 30; Standing Bear, 39; Milk, 45; Yellow Horse, 28; Poor Dog, 32; Little Bull, 34; Sorrel Horse, 28; Hollows Behind, 26; Yellow Hare, 30; Running Bear, 26; Spotted Eagle, 20; Walking Bull, 31; Mrs Walking Bull, 26; Ground, 19; Runs Close, 21; Black Heart, 24; Kills First, 32; Wounds One Another, 26; Eagle Elk, 24; Red Hawk, 23; Kills Close to Lodge, 34; Spotted Eagle, 25; Yellow Wood, 25; Arrow Wound, 28; Rock Man, 30; Swift Hawk, 22; Short Elk, 30; Eagle Elk, 30; Kills Plenty, 23; (Leaume ?), 20; Red Nest, 28; Eagle Horse, 35; Mrs Eagle Horse, 30; Seven-up, 4; Piece of Iron, 28

Note that this list includes two women and three boys aged four, fourteen and sixteen respectively.

Notice is also taken of John Nelson’s Indian wife, Jenny (otherwise Yellow Elk Woman), and mixed-blood children Julia, Tommy, Jimmy and Rosa; and of Broncho Bill Irving’s Indian wife, Ella, and mixed-blood children Benny, Billy and Lizzie, all of whom travelled in Intermediate. Siss Bissnett, another Intermediate passenger, probably falls into the same category. Red Shirt was also an Intermediate passenger. The balance of the Indians travelled in steerage.

A comparison of these two sources yields the following analysis.

There is a solid core of forty performers who showed proper regard to the decencies of double-entry accounting and appear in both the programme and the Persian Monarch list:

American Bear; Arrow Wound; Badger; Bissonett; Black Heart; Blue Rainbow; Boy; Bull Man; Eagle Elk; Eagle Horse; Ground; Hollows Behind; Kills close to Lodge; Kills First; Kills Plenty; Little Bull; Little Horse; Milk; Piece of Iron; Poor Dog; Raised; Red Hawk; Red Nest; Red Owl; Red Shirt; Running Bear; Runs Close; Short Elk; Sorrel Horse; Spotted Eagle; Spotted Eagle (2); Standing Bear; Stands up; Swift Hawk; Two Eagles; Walking Bull; Wounded; Wounds one another; Yellow Hair; Yellow Horse

For the purposes of the above category, Jimy Basnet on the passenger list is taken to be one in the same with Bissonett in the programme; Red Howl is likewise identified with Red Owl; Stand Up with Stands up and Yellow Hare with Yellow Hair.


For now at least, Black Elk is in a category of his own. He appears in the programme but not on the passenger list, for reasons already stated.


A total of sixty-three Indians appear on the programme but not on the Persian Monarch passenger list. It must be taken, assuming the programme list to be authentic, that the vast majority of this category were early departures. A few marginal cases fall to be considered as potential candidates for membership of the party left behind with Black Elk:

Big Foot; Big Leggings; Big Ribs; Black; Black Bonnet; Blue Horse; Black Kettle; Broken Thigh; Charging Eagle; Cheyenne Butcher; Cut Foot; Cut Meat; Dog’s Ghost; Doe Elk; Eagle Heart; Fights all Alone; Flies Above; Gives away Horses; Good Boy; Good Light; Grey Blanket; Hand; High Bear; High Eagle; Iron Good Voice; Kills close to Hill; Kills Pawnees; Little Big Man; Little Chief; Little Wound; Little Whirlwind; Makes Good; Medicine Elk; Medicine Hill; Medicine Horse; Mocassin Top; Mouse; Old Black Bear; Picket Pin; Red Dog; Red Sack; Returns from Scout; Rocky Bear; Runs close to Lodge; Rushing Bear; Slow White Bull; Spider; Standing Elk; Standing Rabbit; Stands on Hill; Sword; Tall Medicine; Three Bears; Throws away; Torn Blanket; Two Eagle Boy; Two Lance; White; White Bird; White Horse; White Lightning; White Star; Yankton


Rather more awkward are a group of eight Indians who are known from the Persian Monarch passenger list but are not known from the programme:

A second Eagle Elk; Mrs Eagle Horse; (Leaume ?); (Lewis ?); Rock Man; Seven-up; Mrs Walking Bull; Yellow Wood

A further loose end is presented by Double Wound, who is known from the article in the New York Times dated 1st April 1887, but not otherwise.

Surreally, the presence of Seven-up is known from the Birmingham Daily Post, 3rd November 1887, in which he is referred to as a small boy of four or five, named ‘“Magpie,” or “Seven Up,” as he is variously called for reasons which do not seem to have been preserved.’


Genealogical enquiries welcome

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Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Great Britain