Parade of dancers at the First American, 1931. Cobb Studio. Museum Purchase, Trust and Agency Fund. PA2014.1.280
Jul 9, 2014 to May 30, 2015
War bonnets and big Stetsons came to Albuquerque in 1929 for an extravagant celebration of American Indian culture. The collaborative idea for the First American Pageant came from Mike Kirk and City Councilmen Clyde Oden, Ward Hicks, Clinton Anderson, Arthur Praeger and Sol Benjamin. With enthusiastic support from Mayor Clyde Tingley, the endeavor took flight.
Albuquerque promoters had watched the success of the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial (which began in 1922) and wanted to draw the same audience for things Indian. The brochure for the event called it “A tremendous spectacle of the Indian” and “A dramatic pageant of Indian life.” Money was raised by the sale of stock and the festival was advertised with the help of the Santa Fe Railway. Celebrity Indian performers were invited: Tessie Mobley (Princess Lushanya) the “Humming Bird of the Chickasaw” along with Daniel Simmons (Chief Yowlachie).
At Wyoming and Central, a four-story facsimile of Taos Pueblo materialized with a large open space in front for tribal dancing. Bleachers were built for the expected crowds to watch the secular dancing and the fireworks at night. There were parades up Central Avenue with Indians in native dress and pillars of the community wearing their finest frontier clothes.
The First American was a yearly happening for Albuquerque until the Great Depression devastated funding.