Hundreds gather to dedicate new statue of Chief Bemidji


A new statue of Chief Bemidji was dedicated Saturday afternoon in the Minnesota city that bears his name.

An overflow crowd came to the dedication ceremony in a park near Lake Bemidji to honor the Ojibwe man named Shaynowishkung - nicknamed Chief Bemidji - who was the first permanent settler in the city, according to the Bemidji Pioneer.

The 9-foot, 3-inch, bronze-cast sculpture is the third statue of Shaynowishkung to be displayed on the shores of the lake.

The first two were made of wood and over time they deteriorated badly due to exposure to the elements. The most recent of the two was built in 1952. Once it began rotting it was coated with fiberglass, which distorted the facial features and gave the statue a "cartoonish" look, according to the Pioneer.

In 2009, tribal and community leaders began talking about replacing the statue with a more realistic depiction of Shaynowishkung. They commissioned a sculptor from Olympia, Wash., Gareth Curtis, who fashioned the piece after old photos of the chief, MPR News reports.

The first two statues are still around; they're on display at the Beltrami County History Center in Bemidji.

Who was Shaynowishkung?

Shaynowishkung was the first permanent settler in Bemidji. Some of the exact details of his life are unknown, but it's believed he was born around 1833 near Inger, Minn., lived in the Cass Lake area for a time, and moved to Bemidji around 1882 after his wife died, according to the Red Lake Nation News.

He was known as a peacemaker and helped the first white settlers in the area to survive, MPR News notes.

He wasn't actually a chief through family lines, though; the Pioneer said he was given that title because he was a spokesman for the people in his village.

A history of Bemidji, “A Walk Through Bemidji in 1910,” said Shaynowishkung lived near the city for 40 years and was “greatly esteemed” by the early settlers.

Shaynowishkung died in 1904, according to the author, Rosemary Given Amble. His funeral was held in front of City Hall, and is believed to be the largest ever held in Bemidji, Amble wrote.

The leaders of the statue committee hope that Shaynowishkung's legacy as a man of compromise will help build more respect between cultures in the area.

"He was a bridge-builder," Anton Treuer, executive director of the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University, told the Pioneer. "I think we need more of that now and going forward."

The new sculpture is just north of Bemidji's better-known statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Next Up

ballot voting vote

Appeals court changes rules for MN absentee ballots received after Election Day

Pending a further challenge, votes received after 8 p.m. on Election Day may not be counted.

Donald Trump

Confusion over where Trump campaign rally will be held Friday

It sounds like it'll be held at the airport in Rochester.

Screen Shot 2020-10-29 at 3.19.05 PM

This video of the Lowry Hill Tunnel walls being cleaned is oddly satisfying

The tunnel will be closed overnight Thursday for cleaning.

gray wolf

Gray wolf removed from the endangered species list

A decision on whether they can be hunted in Minnesota will come later.

covid saliva test

Minnesota opening its 7th saliva testing location in St. Paul

The tests are free and open to anyone regardless of if they have symptoms.

pete stauber - qunn nystrom CD8

Election 2020 preview: Minnesota's 8th Congressional District

It's a race between incumbent Rep. Pete Stauber and Democratic challenger Quinn Nystrom.

fire, flames

Lives saved as passerby, city workers rescue from 3 from Golden Valley fire

The Golden Valley Fire Department responded to the fire Wednesday morning.

Caribou Coffee Holiday 2020

Caribou Coffee rolls out holiday cups, menu early

The holiday season is underway at some Twin Cities stores, with a nationwide rollout planned for Nov. 5.

Malik Beasley

Charges: Timberwolves' Beasley pointed assault rifle at family on a home tour

The family was on the Parade of Homes tour when Beasley allegedly pointed the gun at them, telling them to get off his property.


Former President Clinton honors Humphrey at statue dedication

Former President Bill Clinton was in Minnesota Saturday to dedicate a statue at the state Capitol in honor of the late former Vice President and U.S. Sent. Hubert H. Humphrey. Clinton. "He believed that with a happy heart, and an open ear and an honest dialogue -- a lot of conflict could be resolved," Clinton said of Humphrey.

Jumbo birthday: State's biggest statues converge on Bemidji for Paul's 75th

Bemidji's birthday party for the landmark statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox has some big names on the guest list. The Jolly Green Giant will make the trip up from Blue Earth. Hermann the German is coming from New Ulm. Big Ole from Alexandria and Iron Man from Chisholm. Highway officials warn gawkers could cause traffic jams as all those big statues make their way into town.