Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial

History

Created as a show for tourists in Wisconsin Dells, the Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial became one of the most popular attractions in the area during its 78 year run (1919 to 1997). The show was created largely in response to tourist curiosity about local Native American culture. In many ways it followed the early trend of Indian show business that Ho-Chunk peoples became involved in during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. However, the Indian Ceremonial differed from earlier cultural performances; the program was geared for a tourist audience and had a set line-up of dances and skits.

Stand Rock became a contact site between the Ho-Chunk and tourists as early as 1916 when two Ho-Chunk men, Sanborn and Winslow White Eagle, would dance on the beach as the evening steamer passed by and tourists would throw coins into a hat as pay. Captain Glen Parsons, a pilot and general manager for the Dells Boat Company, recognized the business opportunity. With the help of George Crandall (a local white entrepreneur and environmental activist) and a Ho-Chunk group headed by Russell Decorah, Parsons organized the first “official” ceremonial performance at Stand Rock in 1919.

In 1929, the Parsons/Crandall partnership dissolved and the show, now run by Crandall’s daughter Phyllis, was officially named the Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial. The show had now increased from a 10-day run held once a summer to a 2-month run held throughout July and August. The Neesh-la Indian Development Corporation, formed in the late 1970s and run by a group of Ho-Chunk individuals, finally took control of Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial management and paved the way for other Ho-Chunk individuals to manage the show in its later years.

Fun Facts



Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial, 1997
Video by Sherman Funmaker

The Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial has always had only Native performers. In 1940, the ceremonial earned the distinction of being the only all-Native American show in the United States. Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial became an entirely Ho-Chunk run show in 1987 with individuals from the tribe serving on its board of directors and holding positions of management. Members from the Ho-Chunk Nation have performed in the show every year since its beginnings. The ceremonial also brought in performers from other tribal groups including the Pueblo and Aztec. Chief Evergreen Tree from Cochiti Pueblo is one of the show’s most memorable performers of all time. He entertained tourists at Stand Rock with his bird and animal imitations for over 50 years.

Follow us: