The Sahawe Dancers were originally founded in 1950 as the Comanche Club Indians by Scoutmaster of Troop 81 in Uvalde, Texas, Joe W. Williams, as a program for older boys in scouting. Mr. Williams had read about a similar program in La Junta, Colorado, known as the Koshare Dancers, and their leader Buck Burshears. Mr. William and Mr. Burshears corresponded for some time about the possibilities of starting such an Indian dance group in Uvalde. The name of the group was changed to Sahawe Dancers in 1952.
Their first performance was a three minute dance for a Boy Scout Camporee held on the Nueces River, south of Uvalde,Texas. The group had no idea that it would grow into a full time project. Following that performance, they received calls to dance again and again. Several months after that first performance, they were invited to represent the Concho Valley Council, BSA, at a Scout Circus in Ft. Worth, Texas in the Will Rogers Coliseum before 14,000 people.
The young boys from South Texas had never seen that many people and were nervous, but they stole the show and had been doing so ever since.
Mr. Williams remained active with the group until his death in 1957. F.W. “Chief” Calvert took over the leadership until 1959. Shortly after his tenure the Sahawes disbanded.
Gone but not forgotten, the Sahawes were reorganized in 1962 by Bill Dillahunty, a former Sahawe and a group of other former members. Dillahunty has been the Sahawes Leader since that time.
A whole new band of boys began crafting elaborate outfits, learning new dances, and traveling to Indian events. The Sahawes now perform 60 to 70 shows during the year at fairs, festivals, sporting events, conventions, and special events throughout Texas , surrounding states, and into Mexico . To date the Sahawes have performed in over 200 cities in Texas.
The Sahawes learn their dances from visiting Indian events such as the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonials in Gallup, N.M., the American Indian Exposition in Anadarko, Oklahoma, and many other Indian gatherings around the country. They have a vast library of books, films, and videos on Indian dancing and costuming from many tribal groups throughout the country, which they use as research.
In 1981, the Sahawes started one of Mr. Williams’ dreams, a place to perform their dances. He had made plans for the construction of an outdoor dance theater just before his death, and 24 years later in 1981, the first phase of the Sahawe Outdoor Theater was completed and the first performance was held there.
The Sahawe Outdoor Theater has been improved and renovated in the past several years and now will seat over 300 people in the audience, however the project is not finished as several additions are now on the drawing board.
The Sahawe Summer Ceremonials are held in the Sahawe Outdoor Theater for six nights during late July. The Ceremonials feature a 90 minute performance of dances from the Plains and Pueblo tribes and the Indians from Mexico, this is where you can see the Sahawes at their best as some of the dances can’t be taken on the road because the elaborate props and costumes don’t travel well. Dances from the Kiowa, Sioux, Crow, Apache, Hopi, Santa Clara, Taos, tribes may be seen at the Summer Ceremonials. Also dances from the Aztec and Yaqui may be seen.
The Sahawes second major effort of the year is their Winter Ceremonials held in late February or early March. Because of the unpredictable weather this time of the year these shows are held indoors at Weston Hall of the First United Methodist Church The Winter Ceremonials feature dances of the Southwest Pueblos, many of these dances are ancient Ceremonial dances which have been researched by the members. These performances are also approximately 90 minutes in length.
The elaborate costumes used by the dancers are made by the boys and leaders and are fashioned after ones seen on their trips to Indian gatherings and museums.
During the years that a young man is a Sahawe he will learn through his training dedication, responsibility, leadership, fellowship, and reliability which will help him to become a good citizen.
Each summer, the members are rewarded for their hard work with a trip to various parts of the country. They have traveled through 27 states in 50 years and have visited places like Yellowstone, Disney World, Grand Canyon, St. Louis, Denver, and Santa Fe. Down through the years, they have visited historical sites, theme parks, colleges and universities, and other points of interest.
During the past 50 years several hundred boys have gone through the Sahawe program performing over 2000 shows. They have been designated as Uvalde’s “Ambassadors of Good Will” and were selected as Uvalde’s #1 tourist attractions by the Texas Travel Writers.
The Sahawe organization is made up of boys ranging from the 5th grade through high school and beyond. Many former members still perform with the group when their schedule permits.
Along with their Sahawe activities, the boys are also active in their schools, churches, and other activities. Many excel in athletics, band, scholastics, and 4-H, winning local, area, and state awards. It takes great dedication to juggle all of these activities.