Evolution Poem by Sherman Alexie Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “Evolution” was written by Sherman Alexie. The poem was published first in his collection named “The Business of Fancydancing: Stories and Poems, in 1992”. The poet has used a character named Buffalo Bill to depict the white people’s exploitation over the culture of native American people. Through this poem, the poet talks how alcoholism, poverty and gambling affected the culture and lives of native American people.

About the Poet:

Sherman Alexie is a native American poet, short story writer and novelist. Some of his notable works are The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Smoke Signals, Reservation BluesThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, War Dances. He had received the following awards for his literary works like American Book Award (1996), National Book Award (2007). Most of his works talks about the sufferings of native American people due to the domination of white people.


The poem “Evolution” by Sherman Alexie is a short narrative poem. It consists of five tercet of three lines each.


The poem “Evolution” does not follow a certain metrical pattern. The lines are of unequal length. The poet has given more importance to the narrative of the poem than following metrical structure.

Speaker of the poem:

The poet has written the poem from a third person point of view. So, the speaker gives the accounts of happenings taking place in the life of Buffalo Bill. The speaker describes the cunningness of Buffalo Bill.


The poem “Evolution” by Sherman Alexie talks about the exploitation of native American culture. The character “Buffalo Bill” depicts the domination of white people on native Americans. Bill, who has a pawn shop in the area of Indian reservation, stores the offerings of people. His shop is located across from an alcohol shop. So, he uses the people’s addiction and grabs all their culture and identity related products in his storage room. At the end of the poem, he closes the pawn shop and opens a museum with his collections. He is so cunning, as he gets 5 bucks per head to enter the museum to visit their own products.

Poem Analysis:

Stanza 1:

Lines 1-3:

Buffalo Bill opens a pawn shop on the reservation

right across the border from the liquor store 

and he stays open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

The poem introduces us to a character named “Buffalo Bill” in the first stanza. He opens a pawn shop in a place which is reserved for . The pawn shop is located across the liquor store. He is really cunning and keeps the shop open for 24 hours a day for all seven days in a week. Generally it means, he never closes his pawn shop

Stanza 2:

Lines 4-6:

and the Indians come running in with jewelry 

television sets, a VCR, a full-length beaded buckskin outfit 

it took Inez Muse 12 years to finish. Buffalo Bill

In the second stanza, the readers can get to know how addiction of alcohol and gambling affected the Native Americans. They come running to the shop of Buffalo Bill with whatever they have with them. Some people with jewels. Other people carry television sets or other devices. The addiction is highlighted when some person comes with a full length outfit named “beaded buckskin” which is very precious as their ancestors used it for twelve years.

Stanza 3:

Lines 7-9:

takes everything the Indians have to offer, keeps it 

all catalogued and filed in a storage room. The Indians 

pawn their hands, saving the thumbs for last, they pawn

Buffalo Bill doesn’t care about what the people are offering. He just treats every object as the same. He is not ready to value things as they are needed. Instead he keeps all the objects he got from the people in a storage room.

Stanza 4:

Lines 10-12:

their skeletons, falling endlessly from the skin 

and when the last Indian has pawned everything

but his heart, Buffalo Bill takes that for twenty bucks

In the fourth stanza the readers get to know how cruel and ruthless the character of Buffalo Bill. He doesn’t care 

anything about the native people of America. He just wants to get profit out of them. He is shown as a character who oppresses the culture of native Americans. The poet says that he is even ready to take skeleton or skin from the native people to get profit out of them. He being a white man who settled in America wants only profit and nothing else. The poet says, even if a person has lost everything, Buffalo Bill would take his heart for twenty dollars. In this way, the poet has tried to depict the image of white people’s domination over native people of America. 

Stanza 5:

Lines 13-15:

closes up the pawn shop, paints a new sign over the old 


charges the Indians five bucks a head to enter.

In the last stanza,the readers get to know how clever and cunning Buffalo Bill is. Now, he has got everything from native people of America. So, he closed his pawn shop. Instead he has now painted and uses a new sign board. Now, the pawn shop has turned into a museum. The name of the museum is “The Museum of Native American Cultures”. Now, to visit this museum the native people have to pay five bucks per head. Buffalo Bill is very cunning and clever to make the people visit the museum to see their own objects they offered him once.