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Pioneer PerformancesStaging the Frontier$
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Matthew Rebhorn

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199751303

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199751303.001.0001

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Manifest Destinies Buffalo Bill, Gowongo Mohawk, and the Genealogy of American Frontier Performance

(p.1) Introduction
Pioneer Performances

Matthew Rebhorn

Oxford University Press

The introduction sets the familiar story of the frontier emblemized by Buffalo Bill's Wild West against the unfamiliar story of his contemporary, the cross-dressing Native American performer, Gowongo Mohawk. While Gowongo Mohawk's name is scarcely known today, the fact that both her show and Buffalo Bill's sold out across the United States and Europe during the same two decades suggests that the lineage of frontier performance is far from monolithic. Through her flirtation with subversive gender roles, sexual relationships, and racial couplings in her performance, Gowongo Mohawk gestured to a frontier that did not require conquest to civilize its “unsettled” lands, but one that worked actively to “unsettle” precisely the ideology promulgated by Turner and Cody. Mohawk's pioneer performance actually comes at the end of a long tradition of such performances stretching back to the Jacksonian period, and it is that tradition that this project will be analyzing in the remaining chapters of the book, where the “other story” of the frontier in performance is presented by analyzing a series of texts beginning with John Augustus Stone's Metamora in 1829 and ending with Cody and Mohawk in 1893.

Keywords:   manifest destiny, wild west show, buffalo bill, gowongo mohawk, new western history, nineteenth-century theater, performative practice, columbian exposition

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