Drive by the Haskell Stadium today, and you’ll most certainly notice the imposing archway on it’s western side. The Haskell Arch—which Haskell is planning to rededicate in grand style on September 21st and 22nd this year to commemorate the centennial of the end of World War I—has a brave history.
“At the end of World War I, tribal people were not citizens because they had not ‘achieved civilized status’ per the federal government. As such, they didn’t have to fight in the war, but over 10,000 signed up voluntarily, 415 of which were from Haskell,” Jancita Warrington, director of the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, said.
Some did not return, and of those who did, many still were not granted full citizenship. While the Snyder Act purportedly gave Native Americans citizenship in 1924, because of the way the states were given the power to implement the act, Native Americans could not vote in all 50 states until 1948.
Despite the school’s dark assimilationist beginnings, as veterans were returning from the war in the early 1920’s, Haskell had a phenomenal football team. In 1923, Haskell player John Levi was named an All-American; in 1926 Haskell beat Michigan State. No one would come to Lawrence to play against them, however, because they didn’t have a stadium.
In 1924, the Native American community came together to change that, banding together to create the first lighted stadium in the midwest. The entire $250,000 to build the stadium came from tribal people. “It was their stadium that they gifted to the younger generation of people.” Warrington said.
The Haskell Arch was added as an entryway because two alumnae, who had become very wealthy due to mineral rights, wanted the community to remember their classmates who fought in the war. The only way in or out of the stadium is through the Arch, so the idea was that—with every game that was played—people would remember their classmates’ contribution and sacrifices.
The original dedication was a huge event. President Calvin Coolidge sent members of his cabinet to make speeches, and on the first day there were so many cars that they backed up on Massachusetts street all the way to Highway 40.
“It took on a life of it’s own.” Warrington said. Downtown merchants had baby contests and contests for the “oldest Indian”. Speakers gave lectures on Native American culture at KU and at Lawrence High (which was then called “Quincy School”). The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce held a parade that stretched both down and back up Massachusetts Street.
And Warrington emphasized that such a grand celebration would not have been possible without a city-wide outpouring of support. “If all of the community partners hadn’t come together, they couldn’t have done this. It wasn’t just about Haskell, it was about our whole Lawrence community.”
Warrington clearly hopes that this year’s rededication event will be the same.
The two-day “Keeping Legends Alive” event kicks off Friday evening, on September 21st, with an event to honor veterans at the Arch. Warrington emphasized that all veterans and color guard are welcome to participate in the event, but asked that any interested groups contact the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum to RSVP.
After the veterans event, there will be a community feed, and a tour of Haskell’s 6 on-campus war memorials. The evening will conclude with a showing of the film “Mankiller”, a movie about the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation, and a Q&A with the film’s director, Valerie Red-Horse.
Saturday morning will begin with a fun run to support the IHS Division of Diabetes Treatment and Haskell Athletics. There will be campus cultural and historical tours all day, as well as 16 different workshops. (For the specific schedule of workshops, check Keeping Legends Alive which will be updated closer to the event.)
And then, at noon, the first of two powwows will begin. The noon event will feature dancing by kids, teens, and elders, but Warrington emphasized that if you can only make one event, you should definitely aim for the evening powwow, which will begin at 7 p.m.
The evening event will include a grand entrance, a women’s shawl special, and a men’s fancy dance (the latter event originated at the 1926 Haskell powwow, and is now a powwow staple). With prizes on the line, it’s sure to be a showstopper, and the audience will help chose a winner with their applause.
Warrington emphasized that the entire weekend is open to all, entirely free, and—in addition to being educational—should be a lot of fun. “We are inviting you to join us to celebrate and honor this community history!”
For more details and an updated schedule visit Keeping Legends Alive.