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Historian defends Hiawatha statue



La Crosse’s park board is expected to vote Thursday night on the future of the Big Indian statue in Riverside Park. 

Mayor Tim Kabat says this is the right time to have the artwork removed, but not everyone agrees. 

Local historian Steve Kiedrowski tells WIZM’s La Crosse Talk that the Hiawatha statue should be restored, and educational material ought to be posted nearby.    

Kiedrowski says years ago, there used to be a sign explaining the statue’s origin, and background information about area tribal nations.

There was also a box where you could hear information about the statue, if you pushed a button, but the box and the sign have been gone for years. 

Kiedrowski knows the family of Hiawatha creator Anthony Zimmerhakl, and they want to repossess the statue and move it out of the park.   

Kiedrowski says trying to move Hiawatha could be hazardous.

“There are actually two steel I-beams that run all the way through the statue, to support it and give it strength” he says. “And I think that once they start to try to remove that statue, I think it’s gonna crumble.”    

Kiedrowski has taken part in city discussions of Hiawatha’s future, and he says the city should save money that could be used to remove Hiawatha and spend it on the library system instead.


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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  1. Randy Hubert

    July 15, 2020 at 6:18 am

    If the statue has to be moved and the Zimmerhakl’s want it they should pay to have it removed and stored. Our tax dollars should not be used. If we leave it where it is for all tax payers to enjoy than I have no problem with restoring it and have an informative sign explaining the history.

  2. Mrs Jeanie Garner

    July 16, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    I have always wondered why they haven’t put the story of Mr Zimmerhakl along with the History of Hiawatha, there is a story behind both….if the story of Hiawatha has him as a peace maker who brought 7 warring tribes together…what could possibly be offensive about that….In Michigan they have a statue of Hiawatha that is almost twice as big as ours and I haven’t heard any uproar about that one. I think if our Mayor caves in on this, and goes along with the statues….it’s wrong. Remember what time frame this statue is depicting…. how do you think he should be depicted? It’s like anything that represents a real part of our history, “needs” to be removed….How about teaching more history, so people can understand it, and learn from it….whether it’s good or bad…We live in a real world where some bad things happened…yes…and some good…so who decides what to do to please everyone….I hope our council will have some common sense and allow this statue to remain…with all the history to educate those who enjoy it….

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