Although heartbreaking, the death of 1883’s most significant character in the season 1 finale was required to advance the Duttons’ tale in a worthwhile way. Elsa Dutton (Isabel May) is the daughter of James Dutton (Tim McGraw) and Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill), who founded the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch.

The protagonist of the Yellowstone prequel series was Elsa. Elsa Dutton was shot with a poisoned arrow during an attack on the caravan, which served as the prelude to her demise.

1883’s pilot episode gave a sneak peek at this scenario, which was later expanded upon in “Racing Clouds,” the ninth episode of season 1. A group of ferocious Lakota warriors came across a caravan of settlers leaving the scene of the tragedy in 1883 after discovering their village destroyed and their families slaughtered.

The Lakota chief of 1883 (Tokala Black Elk) logically assumed that the caravan is to blame for the carnage even though the settlers had nothing to do with it.

The horse thieves who desecrated the Lakota encampment, however, were actually present somewhere else and were even put to death for the Lakota by James, Thomas (LaMonica Garrett), and Shea Brennan (Sam Elliott). Due to the misunderstanding, the majority of the caravan was ruthlessly massacred, and Elsa was shot in the liver with a poisonous arrow.

What Happened to Elsa Dutton in The 1883 Finale?

What Happened to Elsa Dutton

Elsa arrived at Fort Casper, but the local physician is unkind and unwilling to assist Elsa, whose condition has steadily worsened. When Shea learned that the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, which employed the horse thieves they had earlier slain, ran Fort Casper, they hurriedly fled and proceeded north to Montana.

James and Margaret decided to settle in the area wherever Elsa passes away in the interim. James was then directed by an indigenous guy to Paradise Valley, where she rode with Elsa so that Elsa may choose her own cemetery.

Elsa Dutton, the lead character and narrator of 1883, finally succumbed to the sickness by the show’s conclusion in season 1.

Why Did Elsa Pass Away in 1883?

Why Did Elsa Pass Away in 1883?

In the 1883 finale, Elsa Dutton was not killed by the Lakota or the Duttons. The Lakota warriors responded to the predicament rationally.

The Louisiana Purchase, which provided white settlers legal precedence to not only claim Indigenous American lands but to do so by any means necessary, sometimes including displacing and destroying Indigenous settlements, permitted the Westward Expansion of America in the late 1800s.

The Lakota were merely defending their territories and people from white invaders who had already been killing Native Americans before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 by preventing them from acquiring those lands.

In conclusion, the only real cause of Elsa Dutton’s passing can be attributed to the white extermination of Native Americans. Even while these true stories may be uncomfortable, Elsa’s ultimate destiny serves as a reminder that 1883 is based on the real events and lives of settlers in the late 19th century.

How Does 1883 Season 2’s Bass Reeves Story Will Build on Elsa’s?

does elsa die in 1883

The tale of 1883 season 2 revolves around Bass Reeves, the first Black deputy U.S. Marshall west of the Mississippi, however an official release date has not yet been set. Despite being set in the same time period, Sheridan’s neo-Western universe is further explored in 1883 season 2 by retelling Bass Reeves’ true narrative.

This is a continuation of the first season’s investigation of how the Westward Expansion of America trampled over entire Indigenous tribes.

The second season of 1883 differs from the first because Bass Reeves was a real historical figure whose proficiency in several Indigenous languages made him essential to peace efforts after his appointment as a federal U.S. Marshall in 1875.

The first season of 1883 can be compared to Bass Reeves in this regard. According to historical reports of Bass Reeves’ actual life, he was also a quick shooter who, despite raising a family of 10 children, murdered 14 men and defeated over 3,000 criminals without ever getting harmed himself.

Although the circumstances of Bass Reeves’ life seem more myth than reality, they are actual historical facts that served as an inspiration for a large number of cowboys, heroes, and leading men in mid-20th century classic Westerns. These brave cowboys in turn served as a major source of inspiration for Elsa Dutton’s persona.

The Importance of Elsa’s Death in 1883 for Yellowstone

The Importance of Elsa's Death in 1883 for Yellowstone

The events leading up to Elsa Dutton’s passing in 1883 were necessary to bring to a close the tale of how the Duttons discovered Paradise Valley, which is ultimately a lesson in the dark, cruel history of white America, from which Taylor Sheridan draws inspiration for the conflicts that shape his Neo-Western universe.

In reality, Elsa’s passing not only hinted at the conflicts between the Duttons and the Broken Rock Indian Reservation in Yellowstone, but it also might have given away how season 5 of Yellowstone would finish.

This is the case because previous to Elsa’s passing, a native man gave James the location of Paradise Valley. He also cautioned James that his people would reclaim the property once the Duttons had controlled it for seven generations; to which James responded that they could have it back after seven generations.

The tragedy of Elsa Dutton in the 1883 finale clarified what the family had to sacrifice in order to lay their claim to the land and explained why the Duttons have such a strong bond with Paradise Valley. It’s also critical to keep in mind that Elsa served as both the story’s protagonist and its narrator in 1883.

Elsa was the focal point of the program, and her plight reflects the societal critique and overarching themes of both 1883 and Taylor Sheridan’s Neo-Western universe as a whole.


In the 1883 series, Elsa Dutton is the main character and narrator. In the season 1 finale, she is shot with a poisoned arrow during an attack on a caravan of settlers by a group of Lakota warriors. The attack was a result of a misunderstanding, as the horse thieves who had actually destroyed the Lakota village were not present in the caravan.

Elsa is taken to Fort Casper but is not given proper medical care and ultimately succumbs to her injury. Her death serves as a reminder of the real events of the late 19th century when white settlers often displaced and destroyed Indigenous settlements.

The story of 1883 season 2, which revolves around Bass Reeves, a real historical figure who served as a U.S. Marshall, will further explore the themes of the Westward Expansion of America and its impact on Indigenous tribes.

Elsa’s death also serves as a crucial aspect of the Yellowstone series, as it sets the stage for the conflicts between the Duttons and the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, and hints at the eventual end of the Dutton’s control of Paradise Valley.

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