America Wild West Shaped a Distinct Culture

Table of Content

After the Civil War, a significant number of Americans decided to move west of the Mississippi river and developed a unique culture in this area. Over time, this captivating culture evolved into the Wild West, a glamorous portrayal of the lifestyle aimed at entertaining large audiences. Although the romanticized image of the Wild West greatly diverges from the actual experiences of those who settled in the west, it also bears resemblances to the genuine western way of life after the Civil War.

In the romanticized adaptations of the West, Native Americans and cowboys are inaccurately portrayed. However, the images of towns and settlements are similar in both the mythological Wild West and the reality of the western experience. While the actual Native Americans in the West were different from their romanticized versions, they were initially perceived as savages who attacked white settlers without reason. In reality, Native Americans desired peaceful relations with these settlers.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe extensively documented the efforts made by his people to assist the American government in order to prevent confrontations. He explicitly expressed that despite having numerous chances to harm the white men, the Natives desired to coexist peacefully (Document A). Furthermore, there were instances when the white population exhibited even more brutality than the Native Americans by slaughtering entire tribes, including defenseless women and children (Document B).

The information presented disproves the glorified notions that Native Americans were savage individuals who had the sole intention of attacking and murdering any white settlers they encountered. Instead, it emphasizes the true nature of life in the western territories. Additionally, it was commonly believed that Native Americans in the Wild West had limited familiarity with modern technology and relied on primitive weapons to ruthlessly assault settlers. However, this perception was highly inaccurate.

According to Document B, Native Americans at the Massacre at Wounded Knee had guns for self-defense but did not act savagely until provoked by white men. This suggests that they were not as primitive as portrayed in romanticized accounts of the West, which usually depict them using only bows and arrows. In addition, there were multiple Native American tribes with unique cultures, despite the romanticized version of the West presenting a singular tribe. For instance, the Nez Perce chief mentioned that his tribe was willing to fight other Native American groups, highlighting the existence of various tribes with their own beliefs and traditions (Document A). Contrary to the twisted perception of the Wild West, Native Americans were not a unified savage culture relying solely on rudimentary weapons. They were actually relatively peaceful and only fought back against settlers when provoked. It is important to recognize their separate and distinctive cultures.

Furthermore, cowboys had a different portrayal in romanticized versions compared to their actual behavior. In these versions, they were seen as having glamorous and heroic lives. However, in reality, their work was demanding and involved mundane tasks like cattle movement. They enjoyed their jobs but also spoke about the laborious aspects such as driving cattle throughout the wilderness with little time for rest or relaxation. Additionally, their lives were not easygoing and often faced fatal accidents (Document C).

Despite being portrayed as heroes in romanticized depictions, cowboys in the real West were primarily known for their hard and dangerous labor rather than their chivalrous actions. It is worth noting that the image of cowboys in the Wild West as tall, white, and handsome men is not an accurate representation. In reality, individuals of various races including African Americans and Mexicans also worked as cowboys, as evidenced by photographs from that time period. In fact, some of the most skilled workers in round-ups were individuals of mixed racial backgrounds such as mulattos.

The text reveals that many cowboys in the West, including Mexican individuals, performed similar tasks as white cowboys but faced discrimination from white men (Document E). Contrary to the romanticized portrayal of cowboys as attractive white males, actual cowboys varied in race and ethnicity, often including African Americans and Mexicans. This reality contrasts with the inaccurate idealized image of cowboys depicted in Western-themed movies and television shows, where they are typically portrayed as tall, handsome white men engaging in heroic acts and enjoying a glamorous existence on the untamed frontier.

In reality, the lives of actual western cowboys, regardless of their race (white, African American, or Mexican), were far from glamorous. They worked hard every day, undertaking the risky and occasionally fatal task of herding cattle. Interestingly, the romanticized depictions of the Wild West do accurately show towns and settlements. Furthermore, both the real West and the fictional portrayals illustrate the landscape as incredibly barren and arid.

In the late 1800s, photographs of the region depicted a lack of vegetation and moisture, as well as a painfully bright and hot sun (Document F). Theodore Roosevelt also described the West as parched, desolate, and barren, with minimal rainfall and endless plains (Document E). The romanticized versions of the West also portrayed a dry and empty landscape, aligning with the authentic western lifestyle. Additionally, movies and television shows about the Wild West accurately depict the setup of towns.

Buffalo Bill, when establishing a new settlement in the West, mentioned the initial constructions that included various shops, saloons, and a quality hotel (Document G). This design is reminiscent of the way towns were depicted in romanticized stories, with a central saloon and hotel on a main street serving as the focal point of activity. Furthermore, like the fictional ghost towns in Western tales, real ghost towns could be found in this area.

Buffalo Bill recounted the story of a town he tried to develop. It thrived briefly but was quickly deserted as its residents flocked to a larger and more prosperous town (Document G). Ghost towns were popular legends in stories and myths about the West, but they were based on a true phenomenon. Popular towns would inexplicably be abandoned, leaving only the haunting traces of their once thriving communities.

The idealized portrayal of the Wild West was partially grounded in reality. The towns and settlements of the West were stark and bereft, consisting primarily of shops, saloons, and a lone hotel while also vulnerable to being deserted. While certain elements of the western way of life were embellished in romanticized versions of the Wild West, other aspects of the mythological depiction were relatively true to the actual situation in the West.

At first, Native Americans were depicted as savage beings, having a unified culture dependent on basic weapons. However, in the real West, they were generally peaceful, only resisting the settlers when agitated, and had unique and separate cultures. As for cowboys, they are commonly portrayed in an idealized version of the West as tall and attractive white men engaged in heroic acts and enjoying glamorous lifestyles. However, the lives of actual western cowboys, regardless of their race (being white, African American, or Mexican), were truly challenging and hazardous.

In popular culture, the depiction of towns and settlements in the West reflects the truth. The landscape was barren, dominated by shops, saloons, and hotels, with many towns eventually becoming ghost towns. However, it is important to note that despite their entertainment value, movies and television shows about the post-Civil War region west of the Mississippi River can be misleading as they only present a partial truth.

Cite this page

America Wild West Shaped a Distinct Culture. (2017, Feb 18). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront