Keeping Legends Alive
September 21-22, 2018
Keeping Legends Alive will be a national gathering at Haskell Indian Nations University honoring the legacy of those who served our country, and recreating the largest gathering of tribal people in Lawrence, Kansas in 1926 when the first tribal World War I Memorial – the Haskell Stadium and Arch – was dedicated. Learn more on our blog>
Haskell’s first Homecoming Celebration: October 1926
The 1926 event would not have been possible without the support of the Lawrence community and the generous financial contributions of more than 2,000 Tribal people representing 70 different nations. Among the largest contributions were those from citizens of the Osage and Quapaw Nations. Without their enthusiasm and support what was intended to be a mere 2,000-seat stadium became the first lighted stadium in the Midwest, the third largest in the state of Kansas with a seating capacity of 12,000, and the first Tribal memorial to honor veterans of World War I.
Funded solely through financial donations from Agnes Quapaw-Hoffman and Alice Beaver-Hallam, the Haskell Arch holds the distinction of being among the first World War I memorials in the country, being dedicated less than two weeks before the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
The 1926 Haskell celebration reminded dominant society that Tribal peoples no longer posed a threat or were as they had been seen, a barrier to the goal of civilization. The “Indian” that once aroused fear and animosity among mainstream society was now experienced with great curiosity and wonderment.
“With the successful handling of the light, the great open-air stage took on a spaciousness and beauty that can never be realized indoors with the same dimensions. Across the considerable distance between the stage and the audience, amplifiers carried speech and song to the thousands of spectators in this setting the pageant drama took on a greater relevance to the American scene and to the history of the Indian race than has hitherto been possible.”
–Nellie Barnes, Indian Leader, 1926
The 1926 Event
Wednesday, October 27, 1926
On high ground in the Wakarusa Valley directly to the south of the school, 40 acres were plotted to establish an Indian Village that would house the 3,000 visiting Indians. The Haskell students constructed a semicircular white wooden arch to the campgrounds that read “Indian Village.”
The Indian Village contained a layout of streets and blocks of tents and teepees. The Kansas Power and Light Company strung 86 street lights throughout the Indian Village and Haskell piped in running water from the school. Wednesday was the day Tribal visitors began to arrive and get settled. The village was the principal attraction.
Among the first to arrive were three great chiefs with their tribesmen: Chief Bacon Rind, of the Osage, Chief White Buffalo, of the Cheyenne, and Chief John Quapaw, of the Quapaw. A Pueblo caravan from Albuquerque, New Mexico, arrived somewhat weary with the long journey but soon were a composite part of the little Indian Village laughing and visiting.
Thursday, October 28, 1926
On Thursday evening a performance of the play “Hiawatha,” based upon the 1855 epic poem “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, sold out every seat in the new stadium. An estimated 2,000 would-be attendees were turned away at the gates.
Friday, October 29, 1926
Friday’s events consisted of special contests for the visitors sponsored by the local merchants and a parade through downtown Lawrence, events sponsored by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, and culminated in what was hailed as “the World’s Biggest Powwow and the first World Championship of Fancy Dance.”
Newspapers of the time stated that:
“The entire parade was colorful and well-planned. Led by the Haskell Band, the parade line of march was scheduled to start at South Park heading north on Massachusetts Street spanning all the way to Sixth Street and then doubling back on Massachusetts Street.”
“The Lawrence Chamber events were hugely successful from every possible angle. The celebration brought the most colorful collection of Indians ever seen in this part of the country and brought the most visitors, both Indian and white, that the city of Lawrence has ever known.”
As recently as 1921 and 1923, Charles Burke, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs had issued opened circulars condemning Indian dances or other “inappropriate” gatherings. At first, Haskell’s officials had in mind a simple homecoming festivity, they did not plan to hold a great inter-tribal powwow or to make exhibitions of “traditional” Indian life and customs the centerpiece of the 1926 Homecoming.
Federal Indian policy and Haskell’s official mission had reason to oppose to schedule a powwow and dancing because it directly conflicted with the Federal assimilationist agenda. Frank McDonald convinced school officials otherwise. Ironically, staging the biggest powwow to date provided Tribal peoples the unique opportunity to publicize powwow culture, strengthening cultural identity.
Saturday, October 30, 1926
“The dedication ceremonies started with a prayer from Rev. Henry Roe Cloud, Principal of the American Indian Institute in Wichita, Kansas. The traditional prayer gave praise and thanksgiving and asked the Creator for protection and guidance of the Indian people.”
“The splendid Bucknell team rushed out upon the field for a preliminary move just at the moment of prayer. Instantly, every Bucknell man bowed his head in reverence. This is one of the outstanding incidents of the celebration. Many noted, too, that as Rev. Roe Cloud prayed, the sun shown through a rift in the clouds, the only time during the entire day.”
–Indian Leader, Haskell Celebration Special Edition Issue, 1926
Bucknell players found their efforts fruitless against the Indian defense and Haskell won the game with a final score of 36 to 0. This event served as Haskell’s first homecoming, establishing a long-standing tradition which continues today.
More about the 1926 event: