Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
March 22, 2010
For a hundred years a statue of Chief Bemidji has stood in his namesake city of Bemidji, Minnesota. The current Chief has looked out over Lake Bemidjigamaug since 1952, replacing an earlier model that had fallen apart. Unlike that earlier version, however, this Chief has been well-tended, and probably is in better shape now than he was 25 years ago. The city apparently loves its Chief Bemidji statue.
But a group calling itself the Chief Bemidji Statue Project Committee wants to dump the current Chief in favor of a more upscale version. Why?
On its web page, the Committee calls the current statue “a comical rendition” and dismisses it as “the ‘play-dough’ Chief Bemidji.” It continues: “some things need to be respectfully taken down and cared for, leaving room for new imaginings based upon what we believe to be important today.”
“Cared for” in Committee-speak means that the current Chief would be dragged off to the Beltrami County Historical Society. “New imaginings” is a delicate way to say that the old statue would be replaced by a new one.
The Committee wants to erect a life-size “or larger” realistic bronze statue of the Chief. This is a classic trade-off — replace an amusing old statue with one that exudes new relevance and sensitivity. Still, the current Bemidji is small and largely ignored by travelers, overshadowed by the bulky Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox just down the walk a ways.
Old photos of the Chief show him to be a worthy subject for a lifelike bronze statue, particularly a big one made of the new colored metal. Two Chiefs would be even better than one.
We just don’t think that this Committee speaks for its city when it talks of shoving the current Chief Bemidji indoors where he’ll never be seen. Bemidji is big enough for two Chiefs (it already has a statue of another famous Indian). Bring on bronze Bemidji, but leave the play-dough Chief alone!
Chief Bemidji Statue
Beltrami County History Center
- 130 Minnesota Ave. SW, Bemidji, MN
- Dragged off the street in July 2014 and banished to the Beltrami County History Center. From Hwy 197/Bemidji Ave. turn west onto 2nd St. NW. Drive two blocks. Turn left onto Minnesota Ave. The History Center is at the end of the street, in the old train station.
- W-Sa 12-4 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
- Adults $5