Skip to main content

Haskell Stadium Arch needs help to survive

LAWRENCE, Kan. - What started out as a small group of people who wanted to decorate the Haskell Stadium Arch for its 75th anniversary, is turning into an all out effort to restore the historic landmark.

The stadium arch at Haskell Indian Nations University will be rededicated in ceremonies in 2001. A handful of alumni and employees thought it would be nice to hang flags and bunting after seeing pictures of the original dedication ceremony. They began gathering donations, but after a close inspection they decided the arch, built as a memorial to soldiers in World War I, needed more than flags, it needed a facelift.

The Haskell Stadium Arch was one of the first memorials in the United States built to honor soldiers who fought and died in World War I. It was built with funds that came exclusively from Indian tribes and private individuals. No government money went into the project. Most of the funds came from the Osage and Quapaw tribes of Oklahoma. Some students attending Haskell at the time donated their bus and train fares home. They then walked or hitched rides to get home, but it was that kind of dedication that got the stadium arch project off the ground.

The original dedication was Oct. 27-30, 1926. A sea of tents surrounded the campus as Native American families came from throughout Indian country to participate in the dedication. More than 20,000 attended the gala. Entire families packed up and spent a week in Lawrence.

The Haskell Stadium Arch had become not only a memorial for veterans, it had become a symbol of unity for Indian Nations throughout the United States, a project built by Indian money and Indian workers.

In the intervening years, the arch became a victim of budget cuts. "With the money we have for repairs on campus, the arch, Building 14, is way down on the priority list," Eli Jackson, head of the Arch and Stadium Committee, said. He explained that although the arch was built with private funding, it is now a federal building and a part of the campus.

Eli, his wife, Mary, John Stanley, Bobbie Rahdar, Cecil Dawes, Marilyn Bread, Darrell Flyingman, Patricia Baker, Gil Hood, Debbie Garcia, Stephanie Morgan and Charlene Jimboy make up the Arch and Stadium Committee. Their goal is to restore the arch to its original condition and then decorate it next year.

The group found that original architectural drawings called for rows of columns to join it to the stadium. After the arch was completed, there wasn't enough money left to build the columns and a chain link fence was erected as a temporary measure until money could be raised to complete the project. Seventy-five years later, the chain link fence stands, the columns and completion of the arch project forgotten.

The long-range goal is to restore the stucco-like material that used to face the arch, install plaques, rebuild a long-buried walkway to the arch, landscape and possibly finish those columns originally planned.

"But first we want to get the arch ready for the anniversary rededication," Stanley, committee treasurer, said.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

He and Eli Jackson pointed to cracked and crumbling areas and said they hope to raise the funds needed for repairs.

"That's a memorial to World War I veterans and there isn't even a plaque there. We want to get one up," Eli Jackson said.

Tamale sales, breakfast burritos and Indian tacos are some of the fund-raising ventures by the committee. Mary Jackson and others filled two freezers with tamales over the past two weeks for a sale.

Another fund-raising campaign started, almost by accident, when a former Haskell student went into an antique store.

Stanley held up a reproduction of a 1926 program from the original dedication, and explained, "A lady here in Kansas saw one of the original programs in an antique store here in Kansas and she got it to us. We have had some made up and we are selling them for $20 a piece to raise money."

Stanley said only 250 of the commemorative programs have been printed so far. "We only have so much money, so we have to do things a little bit at a time."

The group also plans to contact existing businesses which advertised in the original 1926 program and ask them to become a part of the project, through donations or advertising or other means.

Working with the Haskell Alumni Association, the committee set up a special account for donations.

The committee is asking all of Indian country to unite once more in the name of the Haskell Stadium Arch.

"The arch was originally built with Indian money, we want to restore it that way," John Stanley said.

Those who want to become involved in the project are urged to contact the Haskell Alumni Association, c/o John Stanley, Treasurer, 155 Indian Avenue, Lawrence, KS 66046, attention: Stadium Arch Project.