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
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.
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.