Hiawatha

The Hiawatha statue in Riverside Park.

There’s no shortage of people who wish to share their thoughts about the “Hiawatha” statue in La Crosse’s Riverside Park, as you’ll see from the reader contributions elsewhere on today’s page.

But to find a solution about the statue’s continued place in our community, we truly need a willingness to listen.

Since 1961, the 25-foot statue has had an honored spot in Riverside Park overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi, Black and La Crosse rivers.

Fans of the statue say it honors our Native American heritage, and they staunchly defend the artist as someone who was nothing but respectful toward Native Americans. No one is questioning the artist’s intent.

But critics emphasize that times change and cultural acceptance does, too. There was a time when comedians made careers out of poking fun at drinking problems and mental illness. Today, neither are considered amusing.

Complicating matters is that, regardless of how kitschy the statue may appear today to some people, it is a piece of art.

Should the Hiawatha statue remain in Riverside Park?

You voted:

That’s why La Crosse’s Arts Board is looking at the issue. As board member Dick Record said during a recent hearing: “I’m not sure how you erect art — whether you hang it on the wall or put it in the park — and expect to please everybody, because that ain’t gonna happen … The artist did it with great intent, and I don’t know if we should have the ability to control that, because you’re controlling creativity, and I don’t think that’s a great idea.”

That’s a fair point.

Another fair point comes from Shaundel Spivey, chairman of the La Crosse Human Rights Commission, who asked: “Why is just the thought of it being taken down, remodeled and reframed hurting so many people’s feelings who it doesn’t even represent?”

Of course, anything that has been around for more than a half-century, taking up a visible spot and serving as the backdrop for countless family photos, is bound to have sentimental value to some. Think how people reacted when the World’s Largest Six-Pack got new beer labels.

Clearly, there won’t be a solution that makes everyone happy — and maybe that’s asking too much.

But it’s not asking too much to involve more people and other cultures — especially the Ho-Chunk who are indigenous — in discussions of the best ways to go forward.

This should be the start of valuable, ongoing discussions that lead to increased sensitivity about cultural diversity on this and many other issues facing our community.

And such discussions will only engender understanding if there’s less defensiveness about what has been and more understanding about what should be.

No one is questioning artist Anthony Zimmerhakl’s motives or his genuine interest in honoring Native Americans with this statue.

We shouldn’t have monthly referendums on removal of public art, either.

But “Hiawatha” has been discussed for years by people who either wish to preserve it at all costs or tear it down immediately.

As a community, we must make sure that more voices are part of the conversation.


The Tribune's entire A-to-Z look back at La Crosse area history

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(46) comments

random annoying bozo

keeping in the vein of the spirit of these authors, I also think they should get the boundries of the state of Wisconsin changed, specifically the north west boundry, you know that area referred to as 'indianhead'. apparently the founders of wi and mn , and even mother nature herself , were racist, because they apparently used rivers, that Gaia, mother nature, provided , as the boundries to make it look like a side view of an indian head.

David Jarzemski

After reading the below comments, now I get it.

Those who are leading the charge to remove an American Indian statue are flushed with "white guilt". Will the politically correct crowd ever learn that their efforts will not make one whit of difference in the Indian communities.

Case Closed.

Cassandra

"Case closed." Well, thanks, Massa, for giving us your straight, white, christian, male judgement on this.

kingman10

nope, the case is not closed until I say so Jarz! Don't you know that is my official duty on these posts, and I carry it out diligently and with integrity and bigly! No one ever said removing the Statue is going to make a difference in the Native American community. There is a call to just have a dialogue about it. However in the white only world you live in there must not be room for that. While removing the statue won't matter to the Natives community, it might make a bit of difference in the White community as they will no longer support stereotyping a whole race of people. But that is a huge leap for people like you, and it may take awhile.

Buggs Raplin

The Big Indian will remain. The mayor will do nothing to remove it. No council member seeking re-election will do anything to remove it. It's a media (La Crosse Tribune) created non issue activated for the comfort of a small minority of politically correct leftists. No doubt these same people are global warming advocates, but you don't see them protesting Rotary Lights.

Snow Cougar Mary Burke

When the Nazis took over Poland and other Warsaw nations, they destroyed statues they didn’t like. When the North Vietnamese communists took over the south after the American evacuation, they destroyed statues and monuments they didn’t like. When the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan, they destroyed statues they didn’t like. When ISIS started taking control of areas in Iraq, they destroyed statues they didn’t like. Now the liberals - taking control of cities across America, are starting to remove statues they don’t like.

Notice a trend?

[scared]

kingman10

oh boy how smart you are snow job. When US invaded Iraq they destroyed statues they didn't like. When US invaded Germany in the 40's they destroyed the statues they didn't like. When Spain conquered the Inca's 500 years ago they destroyed their statues they didn't like. When the Crusaders invaded Jerusalem they destroyed statues they didn't like. And on and on it goes. What in the name of heaven does any of that have to do with the statue in Riverside park? So now liberals are forcibly taking over cities like the examples you and I posted? You are in way over your head. The only trend I see is your posts are getting worser and worser all the time, making about as much sense as the tea party poo heads with all their conspiracy theories.

Cassandra

You conveniently omitted when the US pulled down the Saddam Hussein statue in an event staged for the TV cameras.

oldhomey

We realize that you are well versed in how the Nazis took over, Snow. We have been reading your angry posts calling for military tribunals to try "traitorous Democrats" and the total abolition of the Democratic Party and anything that has the slightest tinge of liberalism. I bet you get weak in the knees at the sight of men goose stepping in their brown shirts and jack boots. It was those nasty liberal Democrats still in charge in Washington in 1945 who ordered the destruction of those beautiful statues all over Germany and Italy of Hitler and Mussolini at the end of WWII. I know you're still bitter about that, too.

Snow Cougar Mary Burke

The Communist Takeover Of America - 45 Declared Goals

#22 Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all form of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to "eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings," substituting shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.

#23 Control art critics and directors of art museums. " Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art."

kingman10

thanks for the laugh there snow job! always can count on you to bring out the ridiculous and a stupidity of the oligarchs. Yes its all a big plot, a conspiracy if you will, of some left wing commie movement. Oh I just love it!

Buggs Raplin

kingman, you're like the frog sitting in a saucepan full of water with the heat on.

kingman10

oh the king of conspiracies thinks I'm a frog in hot water. Another god one there buggs. I will take being a frog in hot water, whatever that means, to a narcissist conspirator listening the Alex Jones and the ridiculous hard right nut jobs.

oldhomey

Dang right, Buggs! I can just see Snow courageously calling a press conference, coming out with a sheaf of papers and declaring, "I have here in my hands 45 stated goals of Communists who are planning to take over this somewhat okay but soon to be GREAT again country! We need Nuremburg-style trials NOW to put these liberals away for good and end this dire threat! I will only be able to leak out a few of these numbered plans at a time, but the plans are real, and the threat is real. My good friend and comrade, Buggs Raplin, and I are in constant contact with an incontestable source for this information, a blogger known as . . . well, I can't reveal his name at this time." That Snow Cougar! She is SO Joe McCarthy, isn't she? Aren't you, too?"

Rick Czeczok

Testing to see just how sick you are. Gottcha!!!!!!!

Cassandra

This is inside information from our resident fake news Russian bot, the Cougar.

capedcrusader

Don't forget Czeczok.

Tim Russell

I know looking at abstract art always gives me the urge to overthrow the Government and give up my personal property..