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What to do about La Crosse’s native statues



Audrey Kader believes artworks with a historic or cultural theme are meant to represent history, not just the public’s feeling at one moment in time.

The former La Crosse city council member objects to calls for the large Hiawatha statue to be removed from Riverside Park. Kader spoke with the city arts board Friday about times when people were less sensitive about how cultures were portrayed.

“I grew up in Ireland,” she said. “The Irish (were) the butt of all the jokes. We laughed at it and moved on.”

Last week’s arts board forum led to new criticism of the statue native-American statue which has stood along the riverfront more than 55 years.

The La Crosse Chamber of Commerce, which helped get the statue made, plans to speak with local Ho-Chunk members about future plans for Hiawatha.

The board took no action Friday but suggested that there might be another public meeting soon on the Hiawatha statue and other potentially offensive art items.

Former Central High School teacher Carl Miller knew Hiawatha sculptor Anthony Zimmerhakl and says the art teacher spent years creating the statue with the help of private donations.

“We went through the total process that you have to go through with the city … but the money was really provided by the Kiwanis club,” Miller said at Friday’s meeting.

Miller said that Hiawatha contains a time capsule with articles about native American history in the area.

Earlier this year, a statue of long-time Central coach Babe Weigent was erected along Cass St., after a long fund-raising drive led by Carl Miller.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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