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Bill and Tom Ware in the 1997 parade
Bill Ware (left) and Tom Ware (right) in the 1997 parade. Photo: Paula McBride Savage / Anadarko Daily News

Anadarko Indian Expo

In early August each year, hundreds of Native Americans gather at Anadarko in southwestern Oklahoma for six days and nights of celebrating their cultures. Named for a Plains Indian tribe, Anadarko is the county seat of Caddo County. Anadarko is also the "The Indian Capital of the Nation" because of the many Plains Indian populations that have historically lived around this area.

In 1932, tribes began holding an Indian fair, which became the American Indian Exposition in 1935. Fifteen Plains Indian tribes officially participate; they are Apache, Arapaho Caddo, Cheyenne, Comanche, Delaware, Fort Sill Apache, Iowa, Kiowa, Osage, Otoe-Missouri, Pawnee, Ponca, Sac, Fox and Wichita. Representatives of 50 other tribes may also attend.

Several months before the exposition, each tribe selects a princess to represent the tribe at the exposition and a person to honor as outstanding Indian of the year. The exposition begins and ends with a parade through downtown Anadarko. Princesses, organizations, and dancers put on elaborate ceremonial regalia, buckskin or fabric decorated with shells, beads, fringe and colorful feathers. Indian participants set up camp on the Caddo County fairgrounds for days of fellowship and activities; these include a juried arts and crafts show; greyhound and horse racing; dance competitions; all-Indian golf, softball and bowling tournaments; fry bread; and pretty baby competitions. In the evenings, either a pageant or dance contests are presented in the fairground stadium. Each year a new pageant depicts something of the history and the culture of one or more of the tribes.

The exposition grew out of the efforts of the late Frank Rush, who was superintendent of the Wichita National Forest. He convinced the government to make the area a wildlife preserve for the rapidly disappearing American bison. When Rush retired he bought a piece of land he named Craterville Park, which he provided to native groups in 1924 to organize an All-Indian Fair. After Rush died, a group of native Americans organized an Indian fair which was held along side the state fair. In 1934, the Indians decided to hold a separate Indian fair, which was incorporated in as the American Indian Exposition in 1935.

The exposition's main purpose is to perpetuate Native American arts and crafts, and to preserve their cultural heritage. Throughout the week the Indian camps and arbors depict their original way of life. Tourists are welcome to visit the encampment. Indian crafts persons demonstrate, display and sell their arts and crafts to the public.

Documentation includes a five-page report video from the Oklahoma Archives & Manuscripts Division; several "Oklahoma Daily News" paper issues dedicated to the exposition, a brochure of the Southern Plains Museum, and historic and contemporary photographs from previous expositions.

Originally submitted by: James M. Inhofe, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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