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Photo of May Manning Lillie on a horse
May Manning Lillie, around 1890, as a performer in Pawnee Bills' Wild West Show

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Pawnee, Oklahoma: Where the West Remains
A Local Legacy

How did someone named Gordon Lillie come to be called Pawnee Bill?

Pawnee Bill was born Gordon Lillie in 1860 and raised in Illinois. When Gordon was 15, he moved to Pawnee, Oklahoma. He became a teacher to the Pawnee Indians who lived there and they gave him the nickname "Pawnee Bill." Because he loved the history of the Old West so much, in 1883, Pawnee Bill left teaching to join the new Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which featured exciting acts such as a bison hunt. (You can learn more about Buffalo Bill in the "Amazing Americans" section of this Web site.)

While Pawnee Bill was performing in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, he met a woman named May Manning. Soon after they met, May married Pawnee Bill and became May Manning Lillie. Then the couple started their own Wild West show, with May as one of its star performers. Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show was so popular that today it is still re-created at Pawnee Bill's Buffalo Ranch in the town of Pawnee, Oklahoma, for thousands of people to enjoy.

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