CHAPTER THREE: Native Americans Come to Balboa Park
Colonel David Charles Collier, the mastermind of San Diego’s 1915 Panama-California Exposition, thought up the idea of an ethnology exhibit for the Exposition that would present the indigenous background of the Americas. After discussing the matter with businesspeople and scholars, he decided to concentrate on the archaeological and cultural resources of the Southwest. He chose the Southwest for interpretation, rather than San Diego County or California, for by so doing, people with means in the Southwestern states could be persuaded to send exhibits. Attempts were made to convince these people that San Diego would become the “first port-of-call” for ships coming through the soon-to-be- completed Panama Canal, therefore the port to which they could send goods for shipment to national and international destinations.
As it turned out, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Kansas were receptive to Collier’s assurances. Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas declined. After all, San Francisco was holding a government-sanctioned exposition at the same time. It was reasonable for Southwestern states to recognize the dynamic and colorful northern city, which then had a population ten times that of San Diego. New Mexico, the exception, chose to exhibit only at San Diego. Having a railway system that began in Chicago and ended in both San Francisco and San Diego, the Santa Fe Railway sent exhibits to both fairs.
Collier secured New Mexico not only through the force of his flamboyant personality, but also because he had intrigued Dr. Edgar L. Hewett, founding president of the School of American Archaeology (later known as the School of American Research). Realizing that Hewett’s educational ideas were pragmatic versions of his own imaginative schemes, and deferring to his administrative ability and knowledge, Collier got him appointed Director of Exhibits. Hewett controlled the ethnological character of the Exposition.
As a result of Hewett’s intervention, officials in New Mexico agreed to set up a special exhibit — the largest of the state exhibits — in a modified replica of the Mission Church of San Esteban del Rey at Acoma, easily the most impressive architecturally of the Exposition’s state buildings. Hewett also acquired exhibits for the Indian Arts, Science and Education, Fine Arts, and California State Buildings. The last, despite its name, was devoted to the display of Maya artifacts, stelae and monuments.
Dr. Ales Hrdlicka and other physical anthropologists in the National Museum, Washington, D.C. helped obtain exhibits for the Science and Education Building. Inspired by the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, these anthropologists considered “pure” races to be superior to mixed, and the white race — to which they belonged — to be the most superior of all. By means of casts of skeletal remains and of skulls of aboriginal peoples, busts of primates and of Java, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man, and facial molds of Indians, Negroes and whites from birth to death, these exhibits lent credence to the idea that selective breeding would produce stronger, more intelligent human beings. Weak, defective and backward peoples would disappear under such an enlightened acceleration of evolutionary progress.
As an archaeologist whose focus was on the past rather than the future, Hewett did not advocate such utopian ideas. Indeed, he found grace, simplicity and spiritual profundity in ancient and living Indians, qualities he did not find among aggressive and acquisitive white people. It was no accident, therefore, that the Indian Arts and New Mexico Buildings presented an affirmative view of Southwestern Indian achievement. Even exhibits in the California State Building reflected Hewett’s curiosity about the historical uses of the Maya ruins in Central America. Hewett had been in charge of expeditions to Quirigua in Guatemala before the Exposition started. Consequently, it was a stroke of luck that San Diego got plaster casts of Quirigua stelae and monuments, which today are in better shape than their originals.
Working together, Collier and Hewett persuaded Edward P. Ripley, president of the Santa Fe Railway, to set up an exhibit of living Indians in surroundings that looked like those in their native lands. By casting the Indians as a colorful, gentle and sensitive people, their non-Indian impresarios found a role for the Indians to play from which everyone could benefit. The Indians would be on display, but they would not cater to white people’s prejudices as did the abused Igorots, from the Philippines, at other United States expositions.
Hewett suggested that the Santa Fe exhibit highlight Indian accomplishments. He recommended that his colleague, Jesse L. Nusbaum, be hired as superintendent of construction. The Indians thought well of Hewett and Nusbaum. Their feelings toward the Santa Fe Railway were more complicated. On one hand, the railway paid for their services; on the other, the railway asked them to act as stereotypical persons. While on display, they were expected to be ideal, heroic, picturesque, romantic and primitive — an archetypical embodiment that would fascinate onlookers who were anything but ideal, heroic, picturesque, romantic and primitive.
Newspapers called the Santa Fe exhibit the “Painted Desert”; but people called it the “Indian Village.” As with most Exposition proposals, the first plan was grandiose. According to Collier, who talked habitually in hyperbole, there would be “the last great composite picture of the Indian tribes of the Pacific Coast,” ranging from Southern California to Tierra del Fuego.
Hewett’s description was a degree less extravagant:
“In their war paint and feathers, with their ponies, their war dances, medicine men and other of their queer customs, the Indians will be shown perhaps as never before. They will live exactly as they do on their reservations, sleeping in wigwams and cooking in the open. Every tribe will be represented. Some of them are fast dying out and this may be the last chance to see them as they were before the white man pushed them onto the limited reservations they now occupy.”
Hewett did not believe Indians were a “vanishing race.” He thought, however, that steps should be taken to keep Indians from losing their culture.
Like the Indians themselves, he did not approve of the assimilationist goals of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Though Hewett and Collier might have wanted it otherwise, it was unlikely that the Santa Fe Railway — or any other sponsor — would have been interested in assembling a “Grand Congress of Indians.”
At Collier’s urging, president Ripley, in October 1913, agreed to set up 700 to 800 Indians from tribes living along the railway “in a great community house.” The idea was not original as Indians had lived in make-believe versions of their homes at Fairs in Chicago (1893), Buffalo (1901), St. Louis (1904), Portland (1905), Jamestown (1907), and Seattle (1909). Most of these exhibits emphasized the customs of local Indians, but, due to the interest produced by the discovery in 1888 of the cliffs and domiciles in Mesa Verde, replicas of cliff dwellings were featured in Chicago, St. Louis and San Diego.
Ripley’s plan was unrealizable because so many Indians from so many places could never live harmoniously in a “great community house.”
Knowing that the picture of handsome, dignified, taciturn, and exotic Indians, in colorful robes, backdropped by the blue skies, multi-hued hills and vast spaces of the Southwest could be converted into a magnet to draw tourists, Ripley was eager to convey this image to the American people. Since 1907 the Santa Fe Railway Company had sent calendars with pictures of the Southwest across the country and had paid lecturers to extol the charms of the region. Ripley was not a crusader for Indians; but he knew the beauty they represented in themselves, in their crafts, and in their settings would appeal to passengers on his railway.
In January 1914, Edward Chambers, vice president of the Santa Fe Railway, looked over the site for the Indian exhibit at the north end of the Panama-California Exposition. Pleased with what he saw, he expressed his confidence that the six-acre exhibit and the depot the Santa Fe Railway was building in San Diego would bring thousands to visit the city in 1915.
The San Diego Union, in March 1914, attributed the design of the Santa Fe Railway exhibit to Herman Schweizer, owner of the Fred Harvey system in the Southwest, a dependency that provided food, hotel and sightseeing services along the Santa Fe Railway.
The Union article described the future exhibit:
“Passing through the low adobe entrance, the visitor will find himself in the plaza of an old Indian pueblo, of the type familiar in Arizona and New Mexico, only far more complete. He will see their strange dwellings, one surmounting another, two or three stories high, with paths worn hollow in the bricks and the crude wooden stepladders to the rooms fronting on the corridors above.
“He will see the subterranean council chambers, also reached by ladders, where the solemn and secret rites of the tribe are performed by priests and medicine men on religious anniversaries and where all vital affairs are discussed by the chiefs and elders. These council chambers, by the way, are ordinarily never accessible to the average white man.
“Beyond the main settlement, on lower ground, and divided from it by a gradual elevation, are several smaller groups, Navajos, Hopis and Mohaves. Here the character of the country will be different. There will be a narrow stream of water, perhaps, or pools with clumps of brush and little truck gardens.”
The San Diego Tribune, in 1914, estimated the cost of the project at $100,000; the Santa Fe Magazine, in 1915, gave the cost as $250,000; and the San Diego Union, in 1920, stated the cost was $150,000. Make your own choice.
The railway company placed a model of its plan for the Indian Village in the window of their office in the U. S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego, and additional models in agencies of the railway in other cities.
Nusbaum supervised 23 Indians, most of whom were from the San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley. Indians leveled and smoothed a mesa rising above a canyon on the east.
The “Painted Desert,” on the west side of the compound, contrasted with a Pueblo-style Indian Village on the east. Semi-nomadic Navajos in the “desert” lived in hogans, Apaches in dome-shaped wickiups, and Havasupais in brush- covered shacks with dirt-covered roofs. A cliff house, whose walls looked as though they had been blackened by centuries of smoke, harkened back to the prehistoric Anasazi, who are believed to be the ancestors of Hopi and Pueblo Indians. The Navajo hogans were divided into summer and winter varieties, the summer being constructed of cottonwood and leaves, the winter of cedar and earth.
The real Painted Desert is an extension of the Petrified Forest in Arizona. It is on the Santa Fe Railway’s line, east of Holbrook. Its name comes from the many-colored mineralized stratifications of its steep hills. Neither Painted Desert nor Petrified Forest were represented at the Panama-California Exposition. No fossilized remnants of ancient trees with crystallized cavities of amethyst, onyx, quartz and topaz were used, as newspapers would have reported it if they were.
The only attempt at stratified coloring was on the walls of a magically transported cliff house. To make matters worse, a reporter called the Cliff House the “home” of the Mountain Apaches, who lived in the White Mountains of Arizona, approximately ninety miles to the south.
The Indians found a layer of clay below the surface of the “Painted Desert.” They converted the clay into adobe for use on buildings and on a wall surrounding the compound. They also made thatch out of leaves, stems and branches for use on roofs. Nusbaum told non-Indian work crews who constructed the buildings, not to make their work look too skillful. Even so, the workers depended on traditional wood framing, rather than adobe bricks, to hold up the buildings. To give the buildings an authentic appearance, they put wooden bolts or leather thongs on doors in place of hinges, hewed windows with an adze, and compacted the earth for floors.
A reporter for the San Diego Union was astonished to find that Florentino Martinez, a spokesperson for the San Ildefonso Indians, spoke excellent English. The same reporter promoted Julian Martinez, another English-speaking Indian, to the rank of “chief.” Julian, a painter and a potter, was the husband of the famous potter, Maria Martinez, who joined him later at the Exposition. Maria invented her well-known black-on-black pottery with matte designs in 1919. Crescencio Martinez, a member of the group, was a talented painter in water colors. Considering that the Indian population of San Ildefonso in 1915 was about one hundred, their showing at San Diego was phenomenal.
The main buildings in the Indian Village looked like the terraced pueblos of Taos and Zuni. As these buildings had been made by non-Indians and as they differed from the one-story buildings at San Ildefonso, the Indians doubted they would stand. The buildings faced one another across a plaza. Two kivas — one for the summer kinship group, the other for the winter — a trading post and small buildings representing a Hopi village and houses of Rio Grande Indians, occupied spaces near the main buildings. One kiva was submerged, the other, partially above ground. Indians entered them through ladders on the roof.
The Indians hung peppers, fruits and vegetables from overhangs of buildings. They worked and played in the plaza. Here they cooked over fireplaces and in bread ovens, herded cattle, sheep, goats and horses into corrals, and cured hay and wood on racks. The cactus, sage, plows, cartwheels, and rusty tools lying about on both plaza and desert were elements of stage scenery, and not reflections on the housekeeping habits of the Indians.
Harry Baumann, a sculptor, made “artificial stone” out of cement over chicken wire for rock outcroppings in front of the Taos pueblo and for the misplaced Cliff House next to the “Painted Desert.” Nusbaum said the rocks looked so much like the real thing that the only way to tell the difference was to bite them.
The Santa Fe Railway Company shipped in cactus, cedar posts and rocks from Arizona. The Indians used the posts to fence the corrals and to fill gaps in the walls around the compound.
The Indians behaved like happy and outgoing people when Nusbaum was with them, but they kept their distance from visitors.
“With Nusbaum they laugh and play like school boys sometimes, but with the average visitor the number of subjects appertaining to themselves upon which their minds are good-natured blanks is appalling.”
In November 1914, the Indians performed the Dog, Eagle and Sioux War Dances for visiting writer Elbert Hubbard in the aboveground kiva. In the Dog Dance, two female dancers hold leashes attached to the belts of two male dancers who are painted black from head to toe. Imitating dogs, the males gesture menacingly at one another as they step forward and backward. At the end of the dance, they drop to their knees and fight for a loaf of bread. The dance may have been a Sioux Peace Dance in which two warriors engage in combat to decide the outcome of a battle. It is possible the San Ildefonso Indians learned this dance during their stay at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. In war and peace dances of this type males wear feathered headdresses and paint themselves black. Women wear modest headbands with three feathers attached. The Eagle Dance, one of the most popular of Pueblo dances, will be described later.
Nusbaum used the occasion to explain the significance of the kiva:
“There is considerable Indian lore attached to the kiva, of which I will give you one version. Tradition has it that the Indians started in a dark world underground and traveled up through the ages to the light.
“This first stage, which was very damp and cold, is represented by a lower chamber below the main kiva. In emerging from it they are supposed to have come up through what is known as the sipapu, a small hole in the floor. Then they found themselves in a lighter world, represented by the kiva proper. The next step was up into the world in which we live now, which is represented by the roof of the kiva.
“But on coming out into the world, the light was so bright that it hurt their eyes. So they returned for a time, and took with them lightning with which they kindled a fire. After becoming accustomed to the light, they returned to the world and remained there. The top of the original kivas used to be above on a level with the ground, but later development brought them to about the level we have here.”
After the Exposition opened in January 1915, Nusbaum returned to Santa Fe to take charge of the construction of the Santa Fe Art Museum, an adaptation of the New Mexico Building in Balboa Park. Architect Isaac Hamilton Rapp used the Mission Church of San Esteban del Rey at Acoma Pueblo as his model for these two buildings and for the Colorado Supply Company Warehouse in Morley, Colorado, the first of the series.
D.E. Smith, manager of the Hopi House at the Grand Canyon of Arizona for the Fred Harvey System, took over in San Diego as manager of the Santa Fe Railway exhibit.
We do not know how many Indians lived in the compound. The San Diego Union stated there were about 200 Indians on and sometimes off the grounds, as the Indians wandered about the city whenever they could. During one such visit to downtown San Diego, Ka-ka-ki, a 90-year old Apache, who claimed to have been one of Geronimo’s scouts, made several trips on an elevator and bought a five-cent bar of soap and a bottle of cheap perfume. Indians with him insisted on buying articles one at a time in order to see the pneumatic chute deliver the change. In the evenings, Indians enjoyed being thrown off the revolving Toadstool, a ride on the Isthmus, or amusement street at the Exposition.
Reporters counted seven tribes on the “Painted Desert.” These were Apache, Navajo, Havasupai, Hopi, Tewa from San Ildefonso, Keres from Acoma, and Tiwa from Isleta and Taos. The Zuni, the most secretive of Pueblo Indians, were not represented. Hewett imported nine adults, two boys and three babies from San Ildefonso to show themselves and make crafts in the Indian Arts Building. This group insisted on living in the “Painted Desert,” where they felt more at home and where clay for making pots was available.
As each tribal group of Indians kept to themselves, a reporter took this as a sign of “rivalry” between the tribes. As a comparable group of whites would exhibit the same behavior on first contact, the aloofness of the Indians was not that different. It takes time for people to “break the ice.”
The Indians soon adjusted to a routine. Navajo women sorted and carded wool and wove it into blankets and rugs. Navajo men pounded out copper and silver ornaments. Pueblo women shaped pottery. Clerks at the trading post gave the Indians clothes, groceries and money for the goods they made. The Indian barter system had already taken a back seat to the needs of a cash economy. In the evenings, men and women on both sides of the mesa conducted ceremonies inside and outside the kivas.
Maria Martinez brought sacks of sand and clay from San Ildefonso. Her first assignment was to make pots with bottoms knocked out for the chimneys of pueblos. As these were bigger than the pots she usually made, she had to discover a new method of coiling. Julian decorated his wife’s pots after they had been fired, using designs found on shards during excavations of Anasazi settlements. With money she received from the Railway and from selling pots, Maria bought a cooking stove and a sewing machine and built a room in her home in San Ildefonso in which to sell pots.
Julian relished his role as a “tourist Indian.” When white women asked him if he were married, he replied, “Me no got wife, lady. Me look for one. You marry with me, huh?” Maria got back at him when they went to look at monkeys in cages near their compound. Julian said, “They’re just like people, but different. I like looking at them.” Maria responded, “Well, I don’t. I can look at you, and I don’t see so much difference.”
Proud of his mustache of twenty-seven separate hairs, Megalite, a Navajo medicine man, claimed he was the only Indian ever to grow a mustache.
Ignoring a taboo against dancing away from their village, the San Ildefonso Indians performed many Pueblo dances, but they left out the sacred parts. They danced the Eagle Dance more than the others. As with all Pueblo dances, the Eagle Dance represented a prayer and a blessing. The Indians considered the eagle to be a messenger who brought water from the sky to nourish the earth.
Julian and Florentino Martinez wore white caps with beaks, rows of eagle feathers down each arm, and decorated shields on their backs as they pivoted with arms held out to suggest the bird in flight.
The Buffalo Dance — described incorrectly in the San Diego Union as a Hopi dance — had a magical purpose. While wearing masks of buffalo, elk and antelope, the dancers moved in the measured pace of the animals they represented as they pantomimed the stalking, shooting and death of sacrificial game. As a woman — the Buffalo mother — took part in the dance, it was not a surprise when the male dancers invited motion picture actress Grace Darling to join in.
A more serious violation of taboo occurred when Waldo C. Twitchell, assistant manager of the New Mexico Building, allowed the showing of a film taken surreptitiously depicting the Corn Dance at Taos during the Harvest Festival of San Geronimo. Indians from the Taos pueblo broke into the New Mexico Building at night and made off with the sacrilegious film. Not feeling rebuked, Twitchell sent to the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe for a copy of the film. He attributed the Indian zeal to “religious superstition,” a malady from which he was immune.
Edward P. Dozier has suggested the Indians concealed aspects of their dances as European-Americans, not understanding their significance, tried to suppress them. Such was probably the case with the Corn Dance. Koshares, or clowns acting as invisible spirits of the deceased, could not be seen by other dancers, but they were very much seen by spectators. Among other pranks, they made fun of the reputed size of sexual organs of individuals in the audience. Being sensitive on this score, European-Americans forbade further performances of the “obscene” dances.
Artists came in such large numbers to the “Painted Desert” to sketch the Indians that at times they took up most of the space for spectators. Foremost among them was Robert Henri, who lived in New York City. Alice Klauber, chairperson in charge of the Exposition’s art department, had invited him to San Diego. Henri arranged for an exhibit of American impressionists and artists of the “Ash Can School” at the Exposition’s art gallery. Encouraged by Dr. Hewett, in 1916, Henri set up a summer studio in Santa Fe. He was among the first of the “second generation” of Eastern artists to come to New Mexico, bringing in his wake such well-known members of the then progressive wing of American art as Paul Burlin, George Bellows, and Leon Kroll.
In a lecture to his Art Students League class in the fall of 1916, Henri explained his motivation in producing canvases of Yen Tsi Di and Po-Tse in San Diego and Po-Tse-Nu-Tsa in Santa Fe:
“I was not interested in these people to sentimentalize over them, to mourn over the fact that we have destroyed the Indian. . . I am looking at each individual with the eager hope of finding there something of the dignity of life, the humor, the humanity, the kindness, something of the order that will rescue the race and the nation.”
Hopi women offered cornmeal to the Great Spirit before they allowed visitors to take their pictures. Visitors could recognize maidens in the tribe as they wore their hair in two large whorls over the ears. Nonetheless, the women a reporter saw with the unique coiffure nursing babies were clearly ignoring the custom.
Manager Smith took about 100 Indians to Ocean Beach in San Diego. For the first time, they saw the ocean. At first they were afraid the ocean would sweep them away. Finding that this did not happen, they set about collecting seashells to use in the making of ornaments. A reporter who tagged along wrote that the Indians thought the shells had a value “equal to twenty to thirty head of sheep.” When he asked an old Indian why he sprayed salt water on his chest, the Indian replied with a harsh-sounding word which Smith translated as, “None of your damned business.”
Ray Cooper, an Australian sheepshearer, pitted his skill against Ko-Wa-To at the “Painted Desert.” Cooper used a machine and Ko-Wa-To sheared by hand. The Indians claimed their man won the contest because while Cooper sheared two sheep to Ko-Wa-To’s one, he drew blood, a violation of a rule of the contest.
In June 1915, See-Wu-Qui-Vista (sp.?), a 17-year old Acoma Indian, gave birth to a boy. Twenty-six Hopi men, women and children insisted on congratulating the mother, which showed the Indians could be neighborly when they wanted to be. The infant’s parents named their offspring “San Diego.” Ex- President Theodore Roosevelt named another baby, born to Maria Trujillo, July 1, “Theodore Roosevelt Trujillo,” during his visit to the “Painted Desert, July 20. Roosevelt knew many Indians on the grounds by name as he had met them before in New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Railway continued to sponsor the “Painted Desert” in 1916, when the Panama-California International Exposition, as it had been renamed, continued for a second year. Press releases had tapered off as San Diegans were beginning to take the Exposition for granted.
The New York Motion Picture Company filmed scenes for The Castilian on the “Painted Desert” in February. Director Charles Swikert (sp. ?) instructed the Indians to defend their homes from Spanish attack. The events were supposed to have taken place in the time of Montezuma and the “Painted Desert” was being used as a substitute for an Aztec town. (Could the producers have been thinking of Tenochtitlan?). Three Indian boys raced their burros through the village in honor of a visit by Santa Fe Railway president Ripley in April. A Navajo lad offered his goat to Ripley, who was not eager to pat boy or goat.
The Hotel del Coronado played host to Hopis, Navajos and Acomas in May. The Indians romped up and down the beach, ate popcorn, looked at horses in the stables, and gathered around an aviary containing canaries in the hotel’s patio.
No other items about Indians appeared until Thanksgiving Day — theirs, not the Americans — September 23, when the tribes got together for a barbecue of goats, corn and squash to which they invited visitors. While the San Diego Union was not specific, the Hopi appeared to have hosted the feast. Red Clay, a boy, executed movements from the Eagle Dance in which the eagle left its high crag, soared aloft, and settled finally in its nest with feathers fluttering over its brood. The Squash Dance followed in which Indians thanked the Great Powers that had provided them with food. Men wore headdresses of squash and stomped in unison while facing women who, kneeling before them, supplied the rhythm by scraping notched sticks together. The Butterfly Dance, described as “a ragtime movement of joy,” concluded the dance portion of the program. Traditionally, Pueblo Indians performed the Butterfly Dance in the Spring to honor women and procreation. Women dancers wore two rows of feathers on their backs representing butterflies. The short, shuffling steps they and their male partners made to right and left suggested butterflies fluttering from side to side.
Hopi reserved September for women’s dances in honor of the harvest and fertility. Having some characteristics of the Basket Dance, these dances involved the giving away of food and presents. Since Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall disapproved of such largess, he tried unsuccessfully in 1922 to persuade the U.S. Congress to pass a law forbidding the dances.
Hopi women’s dances were not given in San Diego, perhaps because there were not enough dancers.
A San Diego Union reporter’s remarks about the Eagle Dance were symptomatic of the uncomprehending attitudes of Americans toward Indian religious ceremonies that have led to attempts to suppress them:
“His crude imagination easily makes the eagle a messenger of the Great Spirit whose power has moulded the bowl (of the Universe). Despite all the training of civilization he still does homage to this superstition with the dance of his ancestors.”
While the dances were going on, Hopi women cooked corn, squash and mutton in baskets by placing hot stones on the bottom, the food next and a layer of clay as a seal on top. After they opened the cooker, the feast was ready.
The U.S. Army 21st Infantry, stationed at the Exposition, feigned an attack on the “Painted Desert” in October, in which the Indians were beaten. A San Diego Union reporter stated the name of the “chief” in charge of the Indians— actually a man with the last name of Brown — was “Chief Knock-em-stiff Brown.” Such flippancy showed a deplorable lack of understanding of the Indian Village after two years of attempted education. That Brown would have allowed this grotesque mistreatment of his charges shows the gulf between the humane aspirations of Dr. Hewett and Nusbaum and the commercial goals of a business enterprise. Movie cameramen captured the action for showing in screen dramas.
The Santa Fe Railway gave the “Painted Desert” to the City of San Diego in January 1917. The Indians went back to their homes where they held themselves in readiness for calls to future fairs. Fairs, however, were suspended due to the United States’ entrance into World War I, April 6, 1917.
The 21st Infantry Regiment, under the command of Colonel J. P. O’Neill, converted the vacated Indian Village into an officers’ quarters. Enlisted men continued to live in tents on nearby Tractor Field or along the north central borders of the park on a site formerly occupied by the U.S. Army First Cavalry. The 21st Infantry Regiment had arrived at the Panama-California International Exposition in April 1916. It became so popular, because of its participation in band concerts, ballroom dances, patriotic exercises and parades, that the San Diego Union called the Regiment “San Diego’s Own,” forgetting it had already given that title to the 4th Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps.
During the war the 21st Infantry looked for spies along the international border, trained soldiers for new regiments, conducted drives for recruits, helped sell Liberty Bonds, and taught San Diego’s Home Guard how to subdue potential enemies. Someone in the War Department, Washington, D.C. must have approved naming their camp after Walter R. Taliaferro, a U.S. Army aviator who had been killed in an accident. In August 1918, the War Department transferred the 21st Regiment to Camp Kearny to prepare for active service as part of the 16th Division. A remnant may have remained at Camp Taliaferro until hostilities ceased, November 11, 1918. Whether they were at Camp Kearny or in Balboa Park, commanding officers issued orders confining soldiers to quarters during the 1918 flu quarantine.
The 21st Infantry made few changes to the “Painted Desert.” They cleared debris from the mesa and took down corrals, but left the Cliff House intact. The San Diego Museum Association got the five-acre compound in March 1919 (one acre seems to have been lost). Dr. Hewett, director of the Museum, planned to keep Indian Village open as a center for boys’ and girls’ Indian woodcraft activities, as outlined in a book of Indian games written by Ernest Thompson Seton. Seton knew some chants, dances and games of the Ojibwa in Ontario, the Omaha in Nebraska and the Sioux in the Dakotas, but little about the customs of Indians in New Mexico and Arizona.
The San Diego County Council of the Boy Scouts took possession of the Indian Village on June 4, 1920. In 1927, the Scouts raised $35,000 to put the buildings in good condition and to add a swimming pool, mess hall, camping facilities, wash rack, and showers. In 1935, when the Scouts surrendered the compound to San Diego’s California-Pacific International Exposition, they retained about 300 square feet of land, including the mess hall and swimming pool.
The California-Pacific International Exposition’s reuse of the compound as an Indian Village was farcical. Concessionaires were ignorant of Indian accomplishments. Their sole purpose was to make money. Shows were on the same level of crassness as the raucous attractions at the adjacent Midway. Despite scenarios inappropriate to the setting — fortune-telling Indians, songs written by white people sung by Indians, children doing silly dances called “Little Deer” and “Little Badger,” sailors doing foxtrots with Indian women, a Kickapoo magician running swords through a box with an Indian woman inside, and a young person with the non-Indian name of “Jean Peters”, in a pit full of snakes — the shows were not crowd-pleasers. While the Exposition continued into 1936, officials did not renew the contract for a second season of carnival attractions in the Indian Village.
The Scouts again relinquished the facility, December 29, 1941, to the 20th Regiment, U.S. Army, an anti-aircraft regiment. The regiment used the Village as a headquarters and supply depot for antiaircraft batteries along the coast. The Third Battalion commandeered the Spanish Village, a short distance to the south. Though rat-infested, fifteen officers slept in Spanish Village. About 70 enlisted men were luckier as they slept in barracks put up on the grounds.
The Boy Scouts may not have known it in December 1941, but they had said goodbye to Indian Village. Their attempts to keep Indian traditions alive during their occupancy seldom exceeded the level of games, such as hand- slapping, hand-wrestling, rubbing sticks together to make fire, singing while sitting around a fire, and imitating bird and animal calls. These were, at best, rare occurrences.
In 1946, after the U.S. Army moved out, the San Diego Fire Department burned down the six wood and stucco structures that were still standing. Shelving a plan to landscape the area, the City directed a contractor to prepare the grounds for a Veterans War Memorial Building, after rejecting plans to put the building at the upper end of Cedar Street or on El Prado in Balboa Park. Workers put the building up in 1948. Since voters had shown in 1945 that they were unwilling to pay for the construction of the building, the City used for this purpose $300,000 from the sale of Camp Callan, a U.S. Army artillery training facility which during the war had been located on Torrey Pines Mesa.
Survivors of the Boy Scouts, who occupied the most unusual Boy Scout Camp in the world for 20 years, look back fondly on their time in the Indian Village. Nonetheless, the lasting significance of the “Painted Desert”/Indian Village derives from its use in the 1915-1916 Exposition. For a time visitors to San Diego could see real Indians living in surroundings that resembled those in their homelands. These Indians stirred their affections. Psychoanalysts might find the explanation for this attraction to come from the collective unconscious of European- Americans. Perhaps there was a time in the past when their ancestors lived in harmony with Earth, Sky and Stars, a time when Grandmother Spider helped emergent people to find homes at the navel of the world, when Monster Slayer and his brother slew monsters, when rains fell, crops ripened, and people rejoiced, when everyone walked in beauty, and when Animal, Bird, Plant and Place Spirits taught people to cure illnesses, protect crops, vanquish enemies, and dispose of the dead. Was it from within their collective unconscious or from the vividness of their imaginations that visitors thought such things might be possible?
To attract tourists to the pueblos of Isleta, Laguna, Acoma, Zuni, and Hopi, near its main line, the Santa Fe Railway promoted an image of the Indians as heroic icons. The railway commissioned artists to produce paintings of Southwest Indians in picturesque settings for reproduction in calendars and magazines, promoted the sale of Indian pots, blankets and baskets in Fred Harvey restaurants and hotels, and hired writers and lecturers to describe the “land of enchantment.” As the ultimate in poetic metamorphosis, the Railway named its trains “Navajo,” “Chief,” and “Super Chief” so patrons would think they possessed the glamor and quiet-strength of their names and were not just smoke-bellowing, fire-breathing, earsplitting machines.
The Pueblo Indians were not paragons of virtue. They had been mistreated for centuries by white men. Yet, because of the respect they inspired in archaeologists like Dr. Hewett and in artists like Robert Henri, they were beginning to realize their capacity for creativity and to appreciate the culture that had sustained them in the past.
American artists at Santa Fe and Taos, such as Gustave Baumann, Gerald Cassidy, Marsden Hartley, Robert Henri, John Sloan, and Carlos Vierra and Indian artists, such as Crescencio Martinez, Awa Tsireh, Fred Kabotie, and Ma- Pe-Wi, working with Dr. Hewett, created images of handsome and noble Indians that were not synthetic, since the Indians were there to substantiate their depictions. They were reminders that there was a race on the American continent that had evaded, in Dr. Hewett’s words, “the evolutionary processes in the European races to the white skin, the contentious spirit, the passion for individual glory, the determination to rule.” The Indians’ grasp of natural realities suggested to city dwellers, separated from nature, an alternate way of living, although one more suitable for contemplation than imitation. By showing Indians that they could be admired as human beings and as artists, Dr. Hewett and the Santa Fe and Taos artists built up the Indians’ self-esteem, an esteem that had been undermined for four hundred years by conquerors from Spain, Mexico and the United States.
The 1915-1916 Exposition spurred the growth of San Diego and of California in ways that have been discussed many times. Overlooked — except by people in Santa Fe — was its effect in promoting Indian art, in developing the Santa Fe Museum of Art, in fashioning the Santa Fe style, and in shaping the Santa Fe Fiesta. These accomplishments grew out of the “Painted Desert”/Indian Village, out of the Mission-Pueblo style New Mexico Building, and out of displays of Southwestern arts and crafts in the Indian Arts Building.
Dr. Hewett remained in San Diego from 1917 to 1928 as Director of the San Diego Museum and from 1919 to 1927 as a professor of archaeology at San Diego State College. He alternated his services between San Diego and Santa Fe, where he served as president of the School of American Research, beginning in 1907, and as Director of the Museum of New Mexico, beginning in 1909, until his death in 1946. He was a lecturer, writer, editor, publicist, fund raiser, archaeologist in charge of excavations at Tyuoni, Frijoles Canyon and Chetro Ketl, and leading force behind the writing and passage of the U.S. Congressional Antiquities Act of 1906, which protected ancient ruins on public lands.
Hewett saw how by staging the Panama-California Exposition, the small city of San Diego could use a backdrop of picturesque Spanish-style buildings, a cast of costumed actors, and a variety of displays and amusements to entice tourists to visit and to buy. Guided by advice from realtor Colonel Collier, architect William Templeton Johnson, and artist Alice Klauber, he brought the message of renewal to Santa Fe. Whatever he did, Hewett’s main motive was to promote the Indians as Indians in lands given to them by spiritual powers to whom they were inextricably bound.
It is the attribute of belonging to one another and to the earth, sky and powers beyond that fascinated mobile European-Americans. The Indians seemed to live in contented kinship with animals, plants, rocks and trees. They did not own nature; it was the other way around. When overburdened, money-conscious, property-obsessed, status-seeking, future-preoccupied, existentially-tormented European-Americans looked at Indians living by the rhythms of the seasons as they had done before European-Americans had arrived, and at their multi-colored, vast, unspoiled land, they saw a vision of an innocent America as it must have been before dams, factories, fences, machines, mines and weapons of mass destruction had scarred its surface and wounded its soul, and they were filled with admiration and amazement.
Return to Amero Collection.
Ch. 1 The Making of the Exposition
Ch. 2 The Exposition Gets Under Way
Ch. 3 Native Americans Come to Balboa Park
Ch. 4 East Meets West in Balboa Park
Ch. 5 1915 – San Diego Has Its Year of Glory
Ch. 6 1916 – The Exposition Goes International
Ch. 7 1917 – The Exposition Mop-Up
Ch. 8 Sources and Attributions