Living in a town like Cody, Bailey Liebert grew up surrounded by history, particularly that of Buffalo Bill and his legend. Recently, she was able to bring her interest in that history to a national stage.
National History Day is a worldwide history education initiative that encourages middle and high school students to compile research on an historical topic of their choice. Each year, the top competitors meet in College Park, Md., to exhibit their projects. This year, Liebert was one of them.
Her project started out as an examination of the history of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The theme for NHD this year was triumphs and tragedies. She chose to focus on the way that the show affected the view of the west, both positively and negatively.
In addition to online research, Liebert had abundant local sources, doing interviews with the curators of the Cody Heritage Museum, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and Kellie Cody-Edwards.
Her end product was a 10-minute documentary that she took to the Region 1 competition at Greybull in March.
“The Wild West Show had a big part in getting people to move to the west,” she said. “Still, it didn’t have the best relationship with Native Americans.”
Her presentation highlighted some of the complicated relationships between Buffalo Bill and native performers like Sitting Bull, the facts of which are hard to decipher after all these years.
“No historical figure is perfect,” she said. “He thought that what he was doing was right.”
Liebert’s project was awarded first place at the district competition, qualifying her for the state competition, which was in April at the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie.
The work paid off once more, with her documentary receiving another first place award at state. As a top finisher, she qualified for the national competition in D.C. She started raising funds for the trip, and the Cody community came through.
“Initially, we were just planning on me and my mom going,” she said. “In the end, people donated enough that my whole family was able to go.”
It was Liebert’s first visit to the capitol, and she spent her time at the contest between College Park and D.C. She faced off with 99 other competitors in her documentary class.
“There were people from as far away as Singapore and China,” she said.
In the end, her project did not advance to the finals, but the experience was still unique. She had the opportunity to meet Sens. John Barasso and Mike Enzi and get a photo with them in front of the capitol.
She took lessons from the experience that she plans to apply to the contest next year. She is looking at producing a piece on the lives of Native American women in the United States.
Liebert is an incoming junior at CHS and a member of CHS Wired’s news team during the school year. She hopes to pursue journalism in the future.