Perhaps some residents of La Crosse are still unaware that Anthony Zimmerhakl's statue of Hiawatha was inspired by a fictional interpretation of the chief that likely originated from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha."
Perhaps it is important to note that Longfellow notably reshaped essential elements of Native American storytelling in order to fit his own narrative, just as the ethnologist Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, whose work Longfellow had used as a reference, had done before him.
Perhaps celebrating Zimmerhakl's statue of Hiawatha as an emblem of peace is another way for Longfellow and Schoolcraft's misconstrued understanding of Native American culture to prosper and masquerade as some definitive form of truth.
Perhaps the inability to acknowledge that the statue of Hiawatha stems from a mangled history is simply another act of manipulating the narrative for personal satisfaction or the satisfaction of a mere city.
Perhaps the history of a mere city statue is not superior to the history of the people in which it unabashedly distorts.
Perhaps honoring a fictional caricature is not synonymous with holding true Native American culture in high regard.
Perhaps no symbol of a city lasts forever.
Sam Grenier, La Crosse
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