To the editor:

On a perfect summer day in Cody on June 27, 1987, the Robbie Powwow Grounds at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West was dedicated. 

The event was the fruition of years of my father’s hard work to create space exclusively for Native Americans in the region to celebrate and honor their culture. I remember this day. Many good words were said and all who were present understood the symbolic importance of the first dedicated powwow grounds on museum property in the country. 

It was a dream of my father, George P. Horse Capture Sr., the first curator at the Plains Indian Museum and one of the first Native American curators in the country. Considering the problematic relationship between museums and Native Americans throughout history, this Native space was, and continues to be, a healing place for many. 

Incidentally, the Robbie Powwow Grounds is located in the heart of Indian Country. With many Native communities in all directions, the Robbie Powwow Grounds is a perfect location for tribal members to celebrate, honor, and practice their traditions. Those who dedicated that important space are gone, but its original intention as an exclusive venue for Native Americans to practice their traditions, needs to be honored.

Having worked in the museum field for 20-plus years, I understand the institution’s need for creative space planning. However, I would strongly urge the Center to revisit the original intention of the Robbie Powwow Grounds. If one surveys powwow grounds all across the Plains on reservations and in communities, you would find that they are only used for Native American cultural celebrations, not other purposes such as church services or Cowboy Jamborees. Traditional events are critically important for the renewal of Native American communities and culture.

(s) joe horse capture

Glendale, Calif.

(2) comments

Mary Keller

What a thoughtful letter, delivering important local history and BBCW institutional memory. I’m currently teaching the book “Restoring a Presence” by Nabokov and Loendorf, and it contains the best maps and records of no less than fourteen tribes who knew and navigated the landscape; Heart Mountain signaling the entrance to the Shoshone River canyon leading to the extensive trading networks across what is now called Yellowstone. There is so much exciting opportunity ahead as our state begins to support Indian Education for All in the public school curriculum. I hope many possibilities will arise for the curious to learn about the regional tribal traditions through innovative programming that will link Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through teaching the oldest stories and ceremonies of this area. I support this appeal to maintain programming that preserves the spirit of restoring Indigenous presence.

BellaDonna

I agree with this 100%. It is a matter of respect, if that still exists.

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