In 1913, President Wlliam Howard Taft joined a delegation of 32 Indian chiefs and other dignitaries for a groundbreaking ceremony that saw the chief executive digging up dirt with an ancient axe-head made from a buffalo bone. Following a flag-raising, the chiefs then signed a “Declaration of Allegiance to the United States.”
The statue was never built, but according to a story at SILive.com, a Native couple who live on Staten Island are trying to make it happen. The statue was a sort of premature memorial—“to honor what was thought to be a vanishing race,” says Margie Boldeagle. “Now it’s taken on a different light. It would show that we are still here.”
Boldeagle and her husband, Robert, are not proposing anything like the colossus planned a century ago. They would like to see a 25-foot statue built on the fort grounds. They say they have a sculptor and donors for the million-dollar project lined up. The National Parks Service (NPS), which has maintained the fort since it was closed in 1994, won’t allow the Boldeagles’ project, arguing that the 1911 declaration issued by Congress authorized the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy—not the NPS—to construct the monument.
For more on Native monuments, see Mixed Feelings About Crazy Horse Memorial and Memorial Sought for Mankato 38.
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'A fitting tribute': Idea for North American Indian memorial on Staten Island is revived
Almost 100 years ago, the president of the United States joined with dozens of North American Indian tribal leaders for an unprecedented ceremony on Staten Island. Today, the event remains a little-known footnote to history.
President William Howard Taft broke ground in 1913 at Fort Wadsworth on land granted by an Act of Congress to build a memorial to Native Americans. But the project was abandoned during the tumult of World War I.
Now, a Staten Island couple with American Indian family roots is seeking to resurrect what was supposed to be the official U.S. tribute to a “vanishing race.”
Staten Island activists push to build monument to North American Indian at Fort Wadsworth
Staten Island activists who want to build a monument to the North American Indian at Fort Wadsworth said they got no answer when they asked to hold a ceremony there to mark the 100th anniversary of groundbreaking for the project.
But they say they are pushing forward with plans for the monument even through the National Parks Service, which operates Fort Wadsworth, has turned thumbs-down on it.
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