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Indian statue.

Giant Copper Chief

Field review by the editors.

Champaign, Illinois

Herbert W. Drews was a heating and air conditioning man by trade, but an artist at heart. In the 1930s he built a big Tin Man and stood him outside his business in Danville, Illinois. Then in 1949 he built the Big Chief.

Indian statue.

A plaque at its base calls the statue "The Chief" and says it was built to honor Kesis, "a famous Kickapoo Indian chief of east central Illinois." The statue stood on the old Dixie Highway for 46 years, outliving both Herbert W. and his son, Herbert O. In 1995 a grandson moved the statue to its current spot in Champaign.

Standing nearly 17 feet tall, the statue is surprisingly lifelike. Obviously a tough man, Chief Kesis wears only moccasins and a loin cloth. Old postcards show a murderous tomahawk belted to his waist, but it's gone now.

Made of hammered copper, the statue initially mimicked the skin color of its Native American subject. But time has turned the Chief green, like the Statue of Liberty or Frankenstein's monster.

In his current location, the Chief aims his bow west toward Interstate 57. His scowl of concentration suggests a fatal end for whatever is on the receiving end of his arrow.

Giant Copper Chief

Curtis Orchard

3902 S. Duncan Rd, Champaign, IL
Curtis Orchard. Southwest of the city. I-57 exit 232. Drive east on Curtis Rd for a half-mile. Turn right at the stoplight onto S. Duncan Rd. Drive south a half-mile. You'll see the entrance on the left. The statue is not visible from the road, but once you enter the orchard anyone can direct you to it.
Open daily July-Dec., or call for appt. Gated off-hours. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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