The American Legacy
Metropolitan Playhouse
The American Legacy

220 East Fourth Street ~ New York, New York 10009
(212) 995 8410

A 2007 Company of the Year ~ nytheatre.com
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Timeline of Event
Click the links to learn more about the people and events that feature in our story.

1846
February 26
William F. Cody born in Le Qaire, Iowa.

William F. Cody
William F. Cody

1867

A mountain of buffalo skulls
A mountain of buffalo skulls

After post-Civil War stints with the US Army and The Pony Express, Cody hunts buffalo for the Union Pacific Railroad. At 21 years old, he is a seasoned veteran of the Western frontier.
Cody earns the nickname "Buffalo Bill" after slaughtering more than 4,000 buffalo in a little over a year.










1868










Cody returns to the army, serving as chief of scouts for the Fifth Calvary and taking part in efforts to wipe out Indian resistance to western settlements.

1869

Newspaperman Ned Buntline publishes the dime novel Buffalo Bill, King of the Border Men, presenting an exaggerated image of Cody and catapulting him to national fame.

The cover of Buntline's book

1872

Lt. Col. George A. Custer
George Armstrong Custer

At the behest of President Ulysses S. Grant, Cody and Lt. Col. George A. Custer guide Grand Duke Alexis of Russia on a hunting trip to the plains.
Later that year, Cody stars in Buntline's stage show The Scouts of the Prairie. Though universally panned as an actor, Cody flourishes as a showman. For the next several years, Cody performs on stage in the winter and scouts in the West during the summer, deliberately blurring the line between man and myth.
Cody in his stage show costume
Cody in his stage costume

1876

A representation of the Little Bighorn
An artist's representation of the battle.

June 25
The Battle of the Little Bighorn
Following the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, the US Army reneges on a treaty and attempts to displace the natives living there. Sioux and Cheyenne forces take to the field under Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. When Custer brings 600 troops in the Little Bighorn Valley, the native forces defeat them, killing every single soldier.
Later that year, Cody kills and scalps a Cheyenne warrior called Yellow Hair while supporting incursions into the Black Hills. The press, playing into Cody's myth, aggressively publicizes the event and spins it as a response to Custer's death.
 













1877

Chief
                Joseph
Chief Joseph


Displaced from his land, Chief Joseph of the Nez PercÚ leads 700 people, with fewer than 200 warriors, through 1400 miles of mountainous Pacific Northwestern terrain, fighting off and evading 2,000 US Army forces.
After splitting with Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull leads his band across the Canadian border and into safety, rebuffing US officials' offers of a pardon.


















October 5
However, Chief Joseph's luck runs out before he can reach Canada too. The army stops his group of Nez PercÚ less than 40 miles from the border. He surrenders.

1881

July 19
Unable to feed his people, in part due to the scarcity of buffalo, Sitting Bull leads his group back to the United States and surrenders.
US officials allow his people to travel to Standing Rock Reservation, but, fearing Sitting Bull's potential to galvanize a discontented population, they imprison him at Fort Randall for nearly two years.











1883

Wild West Show


William Cody stages his first Wild West Show in Omaha, Nebraska. The four hour extravaganza has a cast of more than 100, including the sharpshooting Annie Oakley, and recreates events from Western lore, including "Custer's Last Stand" at the Little Bighorn.
May 10
US officials allow Sitting Bull to rejoin his people at the Standing Rock Reservation, but they afford him no status befitting his revered leadership role.



















A delegation of US Senators travels to Standing Rock to discuss opening the reservation to white settlers. Sitting Bull speaks forcefully against the measure, but they ignore him.

1885

Sitting Bull is allowed to leave Standing Rock to appear in Cody's Wild West Show. He earns $50 a week, but the leaves the show after only one season. During his time with Cody, he meets President Grover Cleveland.


Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull pose with other members of the stage show.


1886

Geronimo
Geronimo

Geronimo, one of the final native leaders to continue resisting, surrenders to US forces.

1887

Congress passes the Dawes Severalty Act, forcing individual land ownership on native people who had practiced communal land ownership for hundreds of years. Many white Americans use the act as an opportunity to seize native land. In the 47 years that follow, Indian controlled land falls from 138 million acres to 48 million acres. You can read the text of the Dawes Act here.

Dawes
Senator Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts

1890












Fearing the spread of the Ghost Dance ritual, which Native proponents believed capable of restoring the land to its pre-colonial status, US officials seek to neutralize the still influential Sitting Bull. A tense and dangerous situation begins to unfold at the Standing Rock Reservation.
General Nelson Miles implores Cody to come to Standing Rock and help resolve the situation peacefully, hoping that their shared past will help Cody convince Sitting Bull to acquiesce to US demands.

Friends
Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull










Cody races to Standing Rock, but is delayed several times. At one point, he spends the night drinking with government officials and is too drunk to ride the next morning.
December 15
In the early hours of the morning, James McLaughlin orders Indian Police officers to arrest Sitting Bull. As they enter his cabin, a struggle ensues, and they kill Sitting Bull.




December 29
Fourteen days later, at the Pine Creek Reservation, in the process of trying to disarm a group of Lakota, US troops opened fire with rifles and cannons and ultimately kill between 200 and 400 Lakota people at Wounded Knee Creek.
Twenty of the soldiers who participate in the massacre are awarded the  Medal of Honor, the highest personal military decoration granted by the United States, "bestowed only to the bravest of the brave." The awards have never been rescinded. You can read their full citations here.




Read Lakota accounts of the events at Wounded Knee here.

1917

January 10
"Buffalo" Bill Cody dies and is buried at the summit of Lookout Mountain, near Denver. He was one of the most famous men in America, though he had lost the fortune his stage show had earned him through mismanagement and poor investment.



1964


USS Maddox

August 7
At the behest of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in response to an incident between the USS Maddox and North Vietnamese naval vessels. The resolution escalates American involvement in Vietnam.
Johnson continues to ramp up the United States' presence in Vietnam, with sustained bombing campaigns and eventually ground troops.
Lyndon B. Johnson was essentially an Ol' Time
              President.
President Lyndon B. Johnson



1968

The site
The site of the My Lai Massacre in 2015
Photograph by Katie Orlinsky

March 16
US Army soldiers kill between 300 and 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians in the Quảng NgŃi Province. Read Seymour Hersh's contemporaneous coverage in The New Yorker here.
Though 26 soldiers are court-martialed, only Lt. William Calley is convicted. He serves three and a half years under house arrest. Calley wouldn't publicly apologize for his role at My Lai until 2009. Read more coverage here.


Lt. William Calley at his court-martial.

Indians
August 4
Arthur Kopit's Indians premiers in London at the Aldwych Theater. It premiers in New York the following year.

1973
February 27
200 activists and members of the American Indian Movement seize control of the town of Wounded Knee, SD and demand the US government fulfill the terms of various treaties on which they have reneged.















Federal marshals and the National Guard surround the town and a 71 day standoff begins. The government officials and native activists traded gunfire almost daily. Two native activists were killed, and a federal agent was left paralyzed. The activists eventually surrender in May.

2016




April
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and supporters protest the construction Dakota Access Pipeline, which would endanger reservation water sources and potentially disturb sacred ground.


Photograph by: Stephanie Keith


October 26
Police officers in riot gear confront protestors near Standing Rock Reservation, using tasers, pepper spray, and rubber bullets.


2017

February 23
The protestors are cleared from the site after the Army Corps of Engineers grants an easement for the final segment of pipeline.