SHERIDAN — In Sheridan, Wyoming, many recognize that All American Indian Days was a huge step in promoting relations and equality among Native Americans and nonnatives. A memorial was unveiled Monday commemorating the efforts of the many people behind the bygone event.
The memories of All American Indian Days used to only live in nostalgic minds.
“I thought no, this story cannot be forgotten. We have to do something,” said Sarah Luther, the secretary of the Honoring Project on Monday in Sheridan.
There’s a good reason why, as All American Indian Days drew thousands of people to the Sheridan Fairgrounds from 1953 to 1984 with the goal of promoting equality.
“We are remembering what Sheridan used to be, how they collaborated. An idea of a better understanding of two cultures. How to address racism between the two cultures,” Luther said.
Four years ago, the 1967 Miss Indian American and others came up with an idea to honor the event through an organization called the Honoring Project.
That idea was unveiled at Rotary Park with a 12-foot sculpture titled ‘We Are All Related.’
“I’m a stone sculptor and I thought, what better medium? Our tribe reveres the grandfather stone so I figured the spirit of stone can present the sacred hoop to the world and to the four directions for racial harmony, equality, unity,” said Las Vegas-based master sculptor, John DeCelles.
DeCelles is from the Assiniboine tribe in eastern Montana. He jumped at the chance to sculpt the memorial when the call went out.
“It’s a great honor to be able to speak to the world in this time when the world is a little shaky, to promote racial equality and harmony throughout the world,” DeCelles said.
The memorial was given to the city of Sheridan as a gift in a dedication that included a pipe ceremony, a hoop dance, and many blessings. For Sheridan resident James Rhodes, it’s come full circle.
“I’m here because my grandfather, Jack Rhodes, was the first president of All American Indian Days,” Rhodes said.
A photo of Jack Rhodes is on a plaque at the memorial site. Like many others, he played a huge role in keeping the event alive during its heyday.
“I think my grandfather would be very proud to see this, what’s going on now and the recognition that’s coming to Sheridan and all the people of Sheridan. The many, many families who contributed to the success of American Indian Days,” said Rhodes.