By Marc Haddock
Cyrus Dallin's sometimes controversial statue of the Wampanoag Indian leader who is credited with saving the Pilgrims during their early days at Plymouth, Mass., will be reinstalled at an official ceremony Thursday at 11 a.m.
And while some have complained that it's inappropriate to have a statue honoring a Massachusetts Indian leader on display in front of Utah's Capitol when the state has plenty of homegrown American Indians who deserve recognition, Judith McConkie, Utah's Capitol curator, said the work by one of Utah's most famous artists deserves its honored place because of the historic nature of the statue as well as the individual it portrays.
The following year, Dallin presented the original plaster cast to his home state, where it was placed indoors because, as Horne wrote, "One month's rigor of winter weather would crumble it back into clay, but sheltered under the great dome of the capitol it will last indefinitely."
The artist felt that the statue of a Massachusetts Indian represented Utah Native Americans, as well.
"In setting up this man of peace, who saved the Plymouth Colony, I have a hope … that I might model the old Chief Washakie, of the Shoshones, who, too, was a man of peace; and he wielded as potent and saving an influence over the first Pioneers, 'a thousand miles from nowhere,' as ever did Massasoit over the Pilgrims," Horne quotes Dallin as saying.
In other words, the Utahns weren't preserving a great work of art despite it stereotypical nature. They created a duplicate statue because they were proud of its stereotypical nature.
Really? Two hundred years and two thousand miles apart and one can substitute for the other? That's like saying Chief Washakie fought for peace and Q'orianka Kilcher fought for peace, so let's raise a statue of Kilcher to symbolize Utah's Indians.
This is bad enough, but the curator seems to have bought this "argument." Hello? Is anyone in Utah thinking critically about this issue? Or are you all trying to find rationalizations to justify this stereotypical depiction of Indians?
For more on the subject, see:
Rob vs. Curator on Massasoit Statue
Defending Cyrus Dallin
Massasoit the Noble Savage
Massasoit Statue in Utah
Below: Massasoit the half-naked stand-in for Washakie and a statue of Washakie.