In 1914, just weeks before the outbreak of the First World War, a Sioux Chief, Edward Two Two, rode his horse leading a small procession of his nation through the streets of Dresden.

Dresden? Isn’t that

Yes, Dresden! It was the second stop in a tour of Germany for the chief and the remnants of what was once the epitome of a proud and powerful Native American nation from the Great Plains of the United States.

Sitting Bull and "Bill" Cody in 1885

Sitting Bull and “Bill” Cody in an 1885 photograph promoting the “Buffalo Bill Wild West Show” which had begun just two years prior.

But like the traveling Wild West Shows popular in America, the Native Americans were often the star attractions stoking the curiosities of onlookers who never ventured into the interior of the United States.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, in fact, employed numerous Native Americans during its illustrious run beginning in 1883 lasting until 1913. William F. Cody (i.e., Buffalo Bill) hired the most famous of “Indians” Chief Sitting Bull of the Lakota Sioux and twenty of his men. Thousands paid the admission just to catch a glimpse of the Indian chief and braves purported to have wiped out General Custer and the 7th Calvary in the early summer of 1876.

But as the popularity of Wild West shows waned in the United States, the draw of the romanticized version of the American west remained steadfast in Europe. Given a choice of life on a reservation in South Dakota, or touring Germany as part of an exhibit, Chief Two Two and a couple of dozen men and women from the Sioux nation chose the latter. They became part of a “Human Zoo,” people to be exhibited, fulfilling the exotic curiosities of a militarized nation just before the outbreak of World War I. At least there was money in it.

If this sounds intriguing, it is. And it can be seen in a 47-minute documentary by Bettina Renner. Entitled, Bury My Heart in Dresden, the short film appears on Al Jazeera’s website. Below is a promo for the video and it includes some terrific footage of Dresden just before the outbreak of war.

 

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