All-American Indian Days at Sheridan
The Miss Indian America pageant was the grand finale of the three-day annual All- American Indian Days. Sheridan car dealers, restaurant owners, fraternal organizations, and other local benefactors funded the event. The gathering drew on average over 4,000 American Indians from more than sixty different tribes to Sheridan. Each year began with a parade that featured American Indians and local Sheridan organizations. Art competitions, foot races and other athletic events, dances, tepee-building competitions, and a prayer service filled the days.
The AAID grew into an important annual political gathering for Indians from across the country. Vine Deloria, Sr., Vine Deloria, Jr., presidents of the National Congress of American Indians, and the authors D’Arcy McNickle and N. Scott Momaday were just some of the Indian activists who came to Sheridan to organize for Indian causes. The town won national awards because of its mission to promote inter-racial understanding and support Indian self-determination. Some Indians were dubious about the goals and intentions of AAID and MIA, and felt the town used them for its own gain. And while it certainly did not eradicate racism, enough Indians believed in the cause and the Sheridan community to keep the event going for thirty years.
Miss Indian America candidates in All-American Indian Days parade in 1956. Photographer Unknown. Credit: All-American Indian Days collection, THE Wyoming Room, Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, Sheridan, Wyoming.
Miss Indian America XIII Wahleah Lujan waves to an adoring crowd, in the back of a convertible cruising down Main Street in Sheridan. Credit: All-American Indian Days collection, THE Wyoming Room, Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, Sheridan, Wyoming.
The tepee camp is where American Indians met and shared experiences with many other Indians outside of their tribe. Here you see the camp in all of its glory. Credit: All-American Indian Days collection, THE Wyoming Room, Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, Sheridan, Wyoming.