The friendship of Buffalo Bill Cody and the former Hunkpapa Medicine Man, Sitting Bull, is well documented. Although Sitting Bull had toured with the Wild West Show for only one season, they remained steadfast. Proof of Buffalo Bill’s devotion is illustrated in this little-publicized event which nearly occurred at the very end of Sitting Bull’s life:
As the Ghost Dance hysteria swept over western South Dakota in late 1890 (the hysteria being mostly on the part of the fearful whites) Sitting Bull’s influence on his followers was respected by General Miles who suggested that perhaps Buffalo Bill could defuse the escalating tension. The Colonel immediately took a leave of absence from his show and headed for the Standing Rock Indian Reservation with a wagonload of supplies for his former star. Superintendent James McLaughlin, chafing at what he perceived to be an undermining of his authority, managed to intercede and Buffalo Bill was obliged to turn back without fulfilling his mission. Within days, Sitting Bull was dead, knifed in the back by a Native policeman and family member.
What if Buffalo Bill had reached Sitting Bull’s cabin?