Cowboys & Indians

KÄSEBIER & CAMERON

The West had come to her.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show arrived in New York City for a series of performances in 1898, and Gertrude Käsebier was watching as actors of the troupe — including Sioux Indians from the Great Plains — paraded past her Fifth Avenue studio. The spectacle drew many; but it’s quite possible that Käsebier, a child of the West then building a reputation as perhaps the foremost portrait photographer in America, saw what no one else saw behind the costumes and regalia: people. After all, the Iowa-born Käsebier had met many American Indians, minus the show finery, while growing up in Colorado.

As scholar Michelle Delaney notes, soon after Buffalo Bill Cody’s troupe arrived, Käsebier wrote Cody a note suggesting that she, as an old friend of the Sioux, would welcome the chance to photograph some of them. When Cody agreed, she arranged to receive her guests — nine Sioux men, more than twice as many as she had anticipated — for tea at 10 a.m. Sunday, April 24. This new series of portraits of American Indians would become, Delaney

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