This brief examination of the early-twentieth-century United States expands academic interpretations of ethnic performance in the popular realm. The case of Will Rogers—Cherokee entertainer, writer, and political pundit—is particularly useful in understanding the representational conflicts, then and now, between cowboys and American Indians in the popular realm. Rogers himself was unexpected; he was both a cowboy and an Indian, a conflation that baffled and titillated his urban fan base. Throughout his early career, from approximately 1903 to 1919, Rogers and his audience grappled with these seemingly conflicting roles of cowboy and Indian, characters steeped in a seeming ethnic conflict yet embodied simultaneously by Rogers. The celebrity's strong ties to Cherokee ranching culture influenced the way he presented himself, yet such performances confounded his fans. In the end, Rogers's self-representation as a cowboy limited the public's recognition of him as an Indian.
Amy M. Ware; Unexpected Cowboy, Unexpected Indian: The Case of Will Rogers. Ethnohistory 1 January 2009; 56 (1): 1–34. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-2008-034
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