The Hiawatha statue in Riverside Park.

La Crosse’s Common Council might be asked to vote later this year on whether the controversial Hiawatha statue will remain in Riverside Park.

The Human Rights Commission said Wednesday it is working with members of the Ho-Chunk Nation and other community members to find a way to address concerns raised about the 25-foot sculpture, which critics say — regardless of the intentions of the artist, the late Anthony Zimmerhakl — represents a caricature of indigenous people.

Rising Stars Spivey


“It’s still just in the drafting stages,” HRC chair Shaundel Spivey said. “Nothing is too solidified as far as ‘what’s the ask’ and various things like that, but definitely removal is not off the table.”

Spivey expects the drafting process to take a while, as commission members reach out to potential sponsors and the Ho-Chunk Nation.

“I would never take that on without having a conversation with the folks that it would offend,” Spivey said.

Spivey and his fellow HRC members stressed the importance of creating a respectful, public community dialogue before asking the city’s elected officials to make a decision.

“I don’t think it’s going to come before the council just yet. I think there have to be some more intentional conversations both with the Human Rights Commission, the city, as well as the Ho-Chunk people here in La Crosse,” Spivey said.

Commission member Elizabeth Digby-Britten said the Ho-Chunk Nation and others are planning to hold more events, such as listening sessions and dialogues, to share the history and significance of the statue.

“I think there will be a few more things in the works in terms of more education for the community,” she said.

The commission acknowledged that it wasn’t an easy topic to bring to the community conversation, but members said they believed it was important to address, particularly after how heated the conversation grew in 2000 when the statue was last in the public eye.

“In the past when this situation has been brought up, there have been mentions of death threats and different things like that, so I’m hoping that in this 2018 community here in La Crosse, we’re able to have a healthy dialogue and be able to share different opinions, but then also be able to speak the truth,” Spivey said.

The truth in this case, he said, was that the statue is offensive to some people.

“Not just anybody and everybody, but to the folks that it’s supposed to represent, and we have to be honest about that,” Spivey said.

The statue was commissioned in the 1950s by the Greater La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce and has stood at the north end of the park since 1961.

Elsie Patterson: Let's honor Chief Decorah, not Hiawatha
La Crosse Tribune editorial board: Community should have thoughtful discussion about future of 'Hiawatha' statue in Riverside Park

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(23) comments


Let's tear down every monument that represents the history of this great country. That way, we can forget how this country became the greatest country in the history of the world. While we are at, we need to blow up the Crazy Horse memorial in South Dakota and remove any Martin Luther King statues around the country as long as we are destroying all of our other historical statues. We also need to get rid of the Indian statue on the north side of La Crosse depicting Indians playing the game La Crosse. Liberals are like Christmas lights. They all hang together. Half don't work and the other half aren't that bright.


***Caution, this post may hurt someones feelings***

Why is the so-called human rights commission involved in this? Where is the violation of human rights? Things must be pretty good in La Crosse if a person with such a lofty title can be consumed with our hero Big Indian "hurting peoples' feelings".

Who elected Spivy to make a determination whether or not removal is "off the table"?

The answer of course is no one, but the Fibune editors' creepy fixation with all things liberal, have dubbed the poor fellow social justice warrior. Isnt there an instructor spot at UWL for this guy so he can serve up his hate to naive 19 year olds, because anyone with a mile of life experience behind them won't buy what he's selling.

Prediction: Next up, nuns of FSPA hold meditation session for Big Indian (open to the public but $50 fee to keep out the riffraff) and claiming Big Indian contributes to global warming call for its removal.


The Human Rights Commission is yet another example of a group of self-anointed effete folks who have answers for problems they then create to demonstrate their worth as champions of all the little "victims".
Pity these chumps can't be righteously indignant about the bumper crop of potholes, the enabling idiocy of a needle exchanges or why every doper who ODs and gets pumped full of "free" Narcan to do it again tomorrow instead of getting jailed & charged. But that would be so...plebian!

Buggs Raplin

I am encouraged by the many negative comments on this board. I hope city council members and the mayor take heed. Let the statue stand. It is not a caricature like Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians. It is an artist's rendering meant to honor Native Americans. It's historical. It's part of our community, not to be done away by politically correct liberals.-Chip DeNure aka Buggs Raplun

Dave from Wisc

Spivey.....now you know what gender studies majors do after graduation.


And what have you done to make the world a better, more just place?

Rick Czeczok

What have you done? You hide behind a false name and even gender. Big talk is easy when you can't be held responsible for your claims. Sad.....


How about your slander claim Rick? How about that? How about you calling someone on here a "He" when you really can't even tell anyone how you know that. How about you being responsible for your claims big talker?


And yours was what, chemistry?

Dave from Wisc

Check out how many babies were born addicted to meth on Ho Chunk land just outside of Black River over the past 24 months and tell me that this statue is their biggest problem. Don't like the statue? Don't look at it. I don't have a problem with the Big Ole statue in Minnesota.


Mr Spivey is not a La Crosse native. The Indians were the first to arrive on the Mississippi River to La Crosse. Mr Zimmerhackel was a La Crosse Artist who when this was worked on for a long time, people were thrilled. The Statue was a gift and it should remain a Gift. I never heard of an Indian complaining about it and it should remain. People come into a community and try to destroy the History of cities and towns and it should not be happening. It is disgusting!!!


People like Myrick came into a community and destroyed it for the native people who were living here first. Your argument is quite selective.

Rick Czeczok

And you know this how? Your statements are getting ridiculous. Give your real name, so the public know who is making these presumptions about there history and city. I didn't think so it's so easy to say something and then hide behind a false name and even gender. Sad.....


Hey Rick, or Chip, or whatever your name is. How do we know this is your real name? Care to prove it?


Let the Ho Chunk have it, they can do with it whatever they like, maybe it will end up at a casino.

Union Man

how about the city named Lacrosse, That's a sacred Indian ballgame right, maybe the snowflakes should change that too. Then get rid of the statue of the Indians playing it


There is a National Eagle Museum in Wabsha and the National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque. How about creating a museum at the north end of Riverside Park that focuses on the Native American History and Culture in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. I believe this would be a more appropriate alternative to the present statue.


It’s bull this city uses these things as a diversion from the real issues. Get people fighting amongst themselves about race/religion/ball teams/buildings and then they can slip things through while we debate. Wake up sheeple! You’re being sucked in on meaningless made up issues!


Fake controversy takes our minds off the drug crimes and criminals in our midst. Pay no attention to the crime....there's a statue in the park...OMG!


I don't see how this is not a respectful representation of a Native American. I always thought of the statue as honoring them, now I see it as something representing some whiners. Too bad.

Buggs Raplin

This will be an interesting story. I'm guessing at some point this group will recommend to the council that the statue be taken down. Then the 'ball' is in the hands of the council, and its individual members will have to make a stand on the issue. So will the mayor.

Rick Czeczok

Tear it down and put up a statue of Myrick (you know the white settler). That should just about shatter the teeth of the goody-2-shoes.


Well, you just seem to have an answer for everything except how you know Cassandra is a "He". Can you tell us how you know that "Rick"?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.