Monday, October 6, 2003

Town dedicates refurbished icon

Sayler Park's Indian Chief No. 53 back from bronzing

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SAYLER PARK - After a hazardous life, Indian Chief No. 53 has been reborn.

About 200 people participated Sunday in dedicating a recast version of the beloved statue, which survived with help from its friends.

"It's amazing that it's here, after everything that happened to it over the years," said Betty Kamuf, president of the Preservation Association of Sayler Park. "It's a symbol of our community; it always had been. We had to do something to save it."

The statue was erected in Thornton Triangle Park in 1912, in memory of a Fernbank leader, John Fitzhugh Thornton, and in honor of Native Americans who had been forced out.

In 1940, a runaway car hit the statue, severing its legs and a hand. Officials didn't want to pay $850 to fix it. They sold it to a junk dealer for $10 - then repurchased it for $300 after a community outcry.

In 1966, it suffered another car wreck. The elements were also deteriorating the statue's pot-metal surface.

By 2000, a hodgepodge of Bondo, glue and Fiberglas held it together, Kamuf said.

Declared a Cincinnati Neighborhood Landmark, the statue was removed so a Chicago artist could recast it in bronze. The recasting cost about $25,000, with funding from the Cincinnati Park Board, Sayler Park Village Council and residents.

"The community wanted to make sure it was kept here; it's pretty much a mark of pride for the community," said Ernie Macke, council president.

"It's been an icon."

The recast version was erected late in 2002. Months of sprucing-up preceded Sunday's dedication, where Native American ceremonies moved some to tears.

Vickie Whitewolf-Marsh, a Cherokee-Ojibawa Indian, said Native Americans appreciate the statue for its dignified appearance.

"It's not a silly mascot," she said. "We appreciate the cultural sensitivity of Sayler Park."



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Sunday's local news report