In the opening scene of Indians, a buffalo skull, a bloodstained Indian shirt, and an old rifle serve to provide historical atmosphere as Buffalo Bill Cody enters, riding an artificial stallion. At once, the audience learns that it is seeing a rendition of Buffalo Bill's famous "Wild West Show." Indians, too, are present; Cody claims to them, to the audience, and to himself that "I believe I . . . am a . . . hero . . . A GODDAM HERO!"
The next scene is set outdoors in the winter somewhere in the West. Sitting Bull and other chieftains greet Buffalo Bill in the company of three United States senators, emissaries of and substitutes for the president, who has not come to the Indian council to discuss shared problems, even though Cody promised to bring him. Cody calls the Indians his brothers, but his use of the word is shallow and hypocritical.
In the following scene, Cody continues to discuss the Indians' plight with them, but the audience has seen him callously destroying the livelihood of the Indians, shooting one hundred buffalo. Ned Buntline, the reporter who first made Buffalo Bill a popular American hero, is oblivious to the import of this destruction. The Indians are depicted as victims and the whites as callous and unworthy adversaries and victors.
Scene 4, the shortest in the play, shows both the senators and Sitting Bull's Indians watching Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Scene 5 is this show itself, something of a play-within-the-play: Geronimo, by reputation the fiercest fighter against the coming of the whites, parades around the stage pitifully, a pale imitation of his former self, while boasting vainly about past atrocities against whites.
The next scene is the structural center of the play. Here, the three senators...