Following the Civil War, many Americans chose to settle west of the Mississippi river and shaped a distinct culture in this region. Generations later, this fascinating culture was transformed into the Wild West, a romanticized version of the lifestyle, to entertain the masses. The romanticized perception of the Wild West differs extensively from the reality of western settlement, but in some aspects mirrors the true western lifestyle in the post-Civil War period. Native Americans and cowboys, for instance, are portrayed rather inaccurately in the romanticized adaptations of the West, while the images of towns and settlements are similar in both the mythological Wild West and the reality of the western experience.
Primarily, Native Americans in the actual West differed greatly from their romanticized characters. Initially, Native Americans were seen as savages who violently attacked the white settlers without reason. However, in the real West, Native Americans wished for peaceful relations with these settlers. For example, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe wrote much about his people’s actions in helping the American government so as to avoid conflict. The chief even stated that although the Natives had plenty of opportunities to kill the white men, they wished to live at peace (Document A). In addition, at times, the white people acted even more savage than the Native Americans by massacring the tribes, including the defenseless women and children (Document B). This information clearly refutes the romanticized ideas that Native Americans were savages who wished only to attack and kill any white settlers they came across, instead highlighting the reality of western life. Furthermore, Natives in the Wild West were thought to have little experience with new technology, using unsophisticated weaponry to brutally attack settlers, when in fact this was far from the truth. At the Massacre at Wounded Knee, Native Americans were said to have possessed guns to defend...
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