Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Wah Wahtaysee Park

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Institution Name: McMurry University
Original/Historic Place Name: Wah Wahtaysee Park
Location on Campus: northeast corner of campus
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
ca. 1951original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Landscape site
Type of landscape–
Distinct topography:
A three-acre site on the northeast corner of the campus, composed mostly of open grassland with a few trees.
Small-scale features:
Flagpole and sign that serve as first glimpse of campus from the two main arteries leading to McMurry.
Large-scale features:
Cactus garden with representatives of several types of native cacti.
Other characteristics:
Site of annual freshman picnic and of many homecoming activities, including bonfire and Teepee Village.
1951-present (2007)outdoor space (Homecoming, freshman orientation programs, picnics, other outdoor activities)

Significance: education, landscape
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

McMurry's athletic teams are called the Indians. The founding president, Dr. James W. Hunt, was raised on the Kaw Reservation in Oklahoma and picked the mascot when the school began in 1923. In recent years, some minor modifications have been made in certain school symbols in deference to Native American sensibilities. McMurry has been generally successful in making its mascot and associated traditions respectful of Native American culture. The name "Wah Wahtaysee" is alleged to mean "firefly" and was the name given to the uniformed girls' pep squads for many years.

Since 1951, McMurray has held the "Tepee Village" competitions, in which about two dozen campus organizations vie annually for the most authentic tepee reproduction. Three Native American judges, usually from Oklahoma, evaluate the displays. Some five thousand school children from neighboring communities tour the village on Homecoming Friday each year and hear costumed McMurry students discourse on Native American customs.

This field is better kept than in earlier years, when it was simply undeveloped pasture land. Regular watering, trimming of the grass, and improvement of the grounds after the wear and tear of every Tepee Village event keep the site attractive.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Pride of Our Western Prairie, McMurray College, 1923-1982. Abilene, TX: McMurry University, 1989.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections, Facilities Management Office

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