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American Indian College: Archive: Our Founder: Alta Washburn

This archive is managed by staff at Dorothy Cummings Library at SAGU American Indian College. This archive is a work in progress. Check back regularly for more content!


In 1957, Alta Washburn founded what we know today as SAGU American Indian College. Alta was a beloved Assemblies of God pastor, missionary, writer, wife, and mother who changed the landscape of higher education for Native Americans. The SAGU AIC library is grateful to own Alta Washburn's briefcase, which was full of her original writings. Almost everything in her briefcase has been scanned and made available in the archive. 

Original Writings of Alta Washburn

Viewing Note: All documents with a PDF icon are under 20 MB and have been directly uploaded to LibGuides. All documents without a PDF icon are larger than 20 MB and are made available through Google Drive. Some files in Google Drive are too large for a preview to show. We have indicated with a note below those items that you must download the file before you can view it. If you have trouble accessing a file, please contact us at

Autobiographies & Testimonies


Alta Washburn's Testimony

Alta Washburn's short testimony is one that will leave you amazed at the power of God and give you a taste of the transformative work He did in Alta's life. 

Autobiography and Testimony of Alta Washburn

Over the course of 38 pages, Alta reflects on her life, shares her testimony, and discusses her ministry. 

The Trail to the Tribes

Well-known to those at SAGU AIC, The Trail to the Tribes is an autobiographical account of Alta Washburn's ministry to Native Americans. The Trail to the Tribes is included in American Indian College: A Witness to the TribesThe Trail to the Tribes is available in the library for checkout or reference access. 

"Ministries of: Alta Washburn, 1931-1987"

Alta gives her testimony and a brief, but powerful overview of over 50 years of ministry.



"The Gentle Man"

"The Gentle Man" is a two-part biographical depiction of gentle men who Alta Washburn loved. "The Gentle Man #1" was written in 1987 and describes Alta's father-in-law, Bruce Valarious Washburn, whom she calls "Daddy Bruce." "The Gentle Man #2" was written in 1988 and describes her husband, Clarence Washburn. 

Syballe of a Princess: Truth, History, and Fiction

Syballe of a Princess: Truth, History, and Fiction was written in 1984. It reads like a novel, but readers later learn that it is actually a story of Alta Washburn's family tree beginning with her grandparents, William and Mary. The story is 88 pages long, but ends on an odd note. It's likely that the story is unfinished. 

**Library staff have been unable to determine the spelling of the title's first word. "Syballe" is the closest we can determine, even though we cannot find evidence that it is a legitimate word. If you feel confident reading cursive and believe you could determine what the title might be, view the cover page and send us an email at with your suggestion. 

"A $75 Fish Hook"

The story of how Alta Washburn opened her first church and how Clarence Washburn got saved. 

For Movie Film, "A Fool's Last Night"

Here, Alta Washburn tells the story of her life as a young, married woman. She reflects on her life and shares that her one regret was not listening to the voice of God sooner. 

"Pinto Beans"

A story of how something as odd as pinto beans has been a recurring, important part of Alta’s life and ministry.

"Myself Versus Other"

Note to the reader: "For a poor minister who fell in sin and lost all." This story seems to be a vision that Alta experienced, where she fell into a pit in the earth and struggled to get out. She describes how the experience helped her understand her role as evangelist, who lifts up the weary and broken.


“A Homeless Mother”

Alta Washburn relays the testimony of Nandla Key, a woman who attended All Tribes Church, graduated from All Tribes Bible School with honors, and served for years as Women's Ministries president in several Native churches in Phoenix.


Spiritual Writings

Miscellaneous Sermon Notes

Alta Washburn was a beloved minister of the gospel. Her briefcase was full of handwritten sermon notes in notebooks and scrap pieces of paper. The documents included here contain hundreds of handwritten pages of sermon notes. The notes have been scanned by the way they were originally bound together (notebook, binder, loose pages by year, etc.). 

"Mr. Traveler"

Alta Washburn describes this short, convicting call to salvation as a tract that she wants to publish. She asks readers the question, "Who will meet you at terminal of life?"

"Hi, John. Hi, Tom."

A telephone dialogue between two characters, in which one shares the gospel with the other. 

"Help Us Tell the Sweetest Story Ever Told"

Written in 1947, Alta reflects on being asked what she has to offer Native Americans and points her answer to Christ. 

"Walking Gates"

A poem about the power of God and the word of our testimony. 

“Who Is My Neighbor? — A Parable”

A parable in which Alta considers the question, "Who is my neighbor?" The answer she shares through her story is anyone in need who comes our way. 

"Wild Nell"

Part one tells the story of a young woman nicknamed Wild Nell and her transformation into a Christian missionary. Part two examines Wild Nellie's childhood up to her marriage. It is unclear whether these stories are fiction or biographical.

"My Treasure"

A parable describing the fate of Ben, who finds a valuable treasure in his field. This parable aligns with the scriptures Matthew 13:44-46.



Missions at Large

Written in 1964, this play features two women who embody the values of missions and giving to those in need.


Cast List, Notes, and Full Play of Bridal Party

This piece is an extensively illustrated sermon in the form of a play. The sermon/play is centered around the story of the 5 foolish and 5 wise virgins. The half sheet includes the names of the 10 women who participated in the play and a list of some of the props they used.


He Came

Notes and a starting outline for the first two scenes of a play on Exodus 11, the plague of the firstborn son.

My Brother's Burden/The Unknown Indian

A short play that contrasts the healing power between a medicine man and a Christian missionary.
Alta's Note: "This was made into a movie on Salt River General Council. Changed the name we had of "My Brother's Burden" to "The Unknown Indian." They never gave me a copy or even acknowledged it. A.M.W. 1958"

Untitled Play

It is unclear whether this play was written by Alta or someone else. It appears to be missing the first pages.



Plays and Writings for My Book, Daughter of a Princess

At heart, Alta Washburn was an author. This notebook holds her unpublished book, Daughter of a Princess. The cover has the following note: "This book should definitely be typed, edited, and published. Complete original in this notebook - some has been typed in other folder. Alta."

Miscellaneous Items Associated with Alta Washburn

Alta Washburn & All Tribes Christian Fellowship Letterheads

Alta Washburn founded and pastored All Tribes Christian Fellowship, the church that birthed the college.  

Alta Washburn's Business Card

This business card is for Alta Washburn's service as an Assemblies of God missionary. 

Alta Washburn's Signature Page from Trail to the Tribes

This is from the library's signed copy of Alta's book, Trail to the Tribes.

Documents Written About the Washburns

Articles About Alta Washburn, Written by Dr. Joseph J. Saggio

These articles have all been published in previous years by Dr. Saggio, a well-respected scholar and employee at SAGU AIC.

Clarence and Alta Washburn Biography

This biography outlines the dedicated, ministry-driven lives of Clarence and Alta Washburn. 


Clarence Washburn’s Funeral Service

Clarence Washburn joined his wife in Heaven in 1997. This file includes the order of service, speaking points, and the funeral program.


Choosing the Jesus Way

In 2009, Angela Tarango wrote her dissertation on the Assemblies of God's home missions to American Indians and the development of a Pentecostal Indian identity. This dissertation heavily mentions Alta Washburn, All Tribes Bible School, and other related developments in SAGU AIC history. 


Note: To enlarge photos on a desktop, right click the photo, then click "open image in new tab."

Alta Washburn's Presidential Portrait, 1985

Alta and Clarence Washburn, 1985

Alta Washburn Teaching at All Tribes Bible School, Sometime Between 1957-1967

Alta Washburn, 1931

Alta and Clarence Washburn, Date Unknown

The Washburns' 50th Wedding Anniversary, 1973

Alta Washburn Speaking in Henson Chapel, Date Unknown

Rev. Alta Washburn, Date Unknown



Clarence and Alta Washburn, 1981-1982

Alta Washburn on Her Birthday in Prescott, AZ - June 28, 1973

Alta Washburn's Briefcase

Alta & Clarence Washburn's Desk Name Plate

Want to Volunteer?

Dorothy Cummings Library is seeking volunteers!

Are you an alumni, former employee, or friend of the school? Do you have an intimate knowledge of All Tribes Bible School, American Indian Bible Institute, American Indian Bible College, or American Indian College? Do you have a desire to share your knowledge of the school with others? Apply to be an archive volunteer!

Apply here: Library Archive Volunteer Application

About Volunteering:

Due to the high volume of material, the archive will likely take a few years to complete. However, with your help, we can get through the content faster and with more accuracy. Here are the kinds of things we need help with:

  • Gathering archive material (documents, photos, etc.) from outside sources (alumni, former employees, etc.)
  • Identifying people in photos
  • Identifying the time period a photo was taken
  • Identifying the place a photo was taken
  • Placing photos into appropriate photo albums on Flickr
  • Typing up cursive pieces handwritten by our founder, Alta Washburn
  • Donating money that will help fund the digital archive site and materials to physically preserve the items

Please note that the library is usually closed between the 3rd week of May until the 3rd week of August each year. Library staff prefer volunteers to be on-site for initial training, but volunteer work can take place year-round if done virtually.  If you don't live in the Phoenix area or only have summer availability, you can still apply. We welcome anyone with the knowledge, time, and talent to help us out!