American West
Will Strongheart portrays Crazy Horse in AMC's "The American West." (Lawrence French/Getty Images for AMC)

‘American West’ exclusive with Robert Redford

AMC’s The American West is taking some heat from history buffs for tweaking real-life events, but it doesn’t shy away from showing the persecution of Native Americans after the Civil War.

An expanding United States moves closer to eliminating the Native American presence in the latest episode, titled “Outlaw Rising,” airing at 9 p.m. July 9 on AMC.

In this exclusive preview, executive producer Robert Redford doesn’t mince words about the courage of Lakota Sioux leader Crazy Horse and his followers as they face what one pundit in a previous episode called genocide. (Watch previous episodes at

“The Native Americans pressed on, despite the violence and the dissemination of their tribes and culture,” he says. “They were persistent in wanting to maintain their beliefs.”

The eight-episode limited series, which has been paired with the final episodes of “Hell on Wheels,” examines the U.S. in the aftermath of the Civil War. Spanning 1865 to 1890, it tells the stories of cowboys, Indians, outlaws and law men.

In the upcoming episode, Native American leaders Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull face some tough decisions in the wake of the U.S. government’s policy to kill the bison herds and thus starve the tribes. It’s a disturbing part of American history that the series isn’t afraid to examine.

The episode gets its title from Billy the Kid’s story as we learn how he becomes the feared outlaw of history books.

Will Strongheart plays Crazy Horse and Moses Brings Plenty stars as Sitting Bull. Derek Charlton stars as Billy the Kid while David H. Stevens plays Jesse James. On the lawmen side, Jonathan C. Stewart portrays Wyatt Earp and Edgar Fox stars as Doc Holliday. Eric Rolland appears as railroad tycoon Thomas “Doc” Durant, a real-life figure played by Colm Meaney on “Hell on Wheels.”

The series features interviews with stars of Western films, including James Caan, Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck, Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Harmon and Ed Harris. Politicians such as Sen. John McCain and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offer their insights. Several scholars also chime in.

Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn with Sundance Productions are executive producers along with Stephen David. Stephen David Production previously produced “The Men Who Built America” and “The Making of the Mob: New York.”

Despite the series’ well-known pedigree, some viewers are taking it to task for getting the details of history wrong.

“Very disappointing,” one viewer wrote in comments on the show’s AMC web page. “Producers had to know that there are a lot of people out here who … would see inaccuracies.”

I recommend watching the series, but also suggest viewers understand that certain liberties may have been taken with facts. If you’re interested in knowing more, go to your library and read books about the topics you enjoy.

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