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Tales from the Dallas History Archives: Honoring Native American Heritage Month

This was once the home of the Wichita, Comanche, Caddo, and Cherokee tribes. Let’s take a look through the Dallas Public Library’s archives.
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Pointers on Native American dance are given to the Smith brothers, McKamey, left, and Tom Jr., right by Frank Knickerbocker, center a leading Native American folklorist, April 29, 1951. From the Hayes Collection, Dallas Public Library
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Tales from the Dallas History Archives: Honoring Native American Heritage Month

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It is important to remember that this area of North Texas was once populated by several Indigenous peoples: the Wichita, Comanche, Caddo, and Cherokee all called this home.

November is Native American Heritage Month and an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the history and culture of the people Native to this land. It’s also a good time to educate the public on the past and current challenges facing Native Americans. According to 2019 U. S. Census Bureau estimates, about 4,000 Dallasites identify as American Indian.

I looked in the Dallas Public Library archive to find historical images of Dallas history that depict Native Americans, both residents of Dallas and those who spent time in this area.  The photographs attached to this gallery are part the Dallas Public Library’s Dallas History and Archives Collection. They include portraiture of Native Americans in the 1960s-1970s including a couple of images depicting Murray Rhoads and his family. Rhoads was a full-blood Southern Cheyenne, the first Native American to join the Dallas Police Department, and, after a 25-year career, became the first Native American to retire from the Dallas Police Department.

Among the various photographs depicted are images from an archeological excavation of a Native American site in North Texas in 1968, as well as images of notable and national figures such as Forrest Kassanavoid, the founding president of the American Indian Society and a leader in Dallas Comanche Indian affairs, and activist Vernon Bellecourt, who was born on the White Earth reservation in Minnesota.

The Dallas Public Library has many other images related to life in the city from years past. You can learn more by searching through the library’s online catalog. Go to “Advanced” and use the “Limit By” option to select “Digital Archive” then type in your topic.


Brandon Murray, a librarian and archivist in the Dallas Public Library’s Dallas History & Archives Division, writes about North Texas history for D Magazine. See more of this series here.

Contact Dallas History & Archives Division at Dallas Public Library at (214) 670-1435 or email [email protected] with questions about the many fascinating photographic resources available.

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