An Indian Called ‘Wounded Knee’ 

Miss Viola Clemmons and the White Lily Company in England & Wales, 1891-92


The battle being over Wounded Knee feigned death, and after waiting some hours crawled painfully a distance of no less than fifteen miles. In the course of his feat of fortitude the young warrior again showed his cunning. He was surprised by soldiers, and in order to make more complete the semblance of death he struck his nose violently with a stone, causing it to bleed, and lay prone in the snow until the soldiers had passed. With the end of this story came the cry of the call boy, and the Indians sprang from their benches and trooped down to the stage.

- Nottingham Daily Express, 29th September 1891


An Indian Called ‘Wounded Knee’ - Miss Viola Clemmons and the White Lily Company in England & Wales, 1891-92
by Tom F. Cunningham
Westerners Publications Ltd
Published August 2012
14,794 words
Price £8

The American actress Katherine Viola Clemmons toured the provincial theatres of England and Wales for four months during 1891 - 92 with The White Lily, a pioneering production in the evolution of the Western genre.

Viola’s dramatic career, although ultimately a monumental failure, could not have been accomplished at all without the patronage and comprehensive backing of Colonel W. F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, who was simultaneously engaged on a tour of Great Britain with his Wild West show. The most compelling element in this dramatic spectacular was a band of ten authentic Lakota Indians, whose recruitment from Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, was facilitated by Buffalo Bill.

The White Lily, generally ignored by Cody scholars until now, emerges as no mere side-issue but rather an indispensable component of Buffalo Bill’s momentous 1891–92 season, in which several key figures from the previous winter’s turbulent events on Pine Ridge Reservation were core participants. Recently rediscovered press coverage and other archive sources cast considerable light upon the at times harrowing personal experiences of the Lakota performers, as well as upon Buffalo Bill’s own movements during this time and the truth about the precise nature of his entanglement with Viola.

In the process, the outrageously mendacious manner in which the tragic train of events culminating in the previous December’s infamous slaughter at Wounded Knee was shamelessly rebranded and placed before the British public as the entertainment sensation of the age is revealed now as never before.

So far as can be determined, this is the first occasion on which a full listing of the White Lily Company’s British dates and venues has been made available in published form.

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