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Petition to save Hiawatha statue may have been too late



A last-minute effort to prevent removal of the Hiawatha statue in La Crosse may have been a day late. 

WIZM News has learned that a preservation request was filed just hours before Thursday night’s heritage preservation commission meeting, missing the usual 24-hour deadline to get an item on the agenda. 

Mayor Tim Kabat sent out a letter on Monday, asking city officials to remove the 25-foot Indian statue, which has stood along the river since 1961.

The La Crosse park board unanimously voted for the statue’s removal on Thursday night, at the same time the preservation commission also was meeting.

City council member Gary Padesky backed the preservation idea, and he disagrees with native Americans who find the Indian statue offensive, and not representative of indigenous people who have lived in the region.

“I didn’t find Hiawatha any more offensive than I did the Paul Bunyan statue in Minnesota, because technically I could go up to their city now and say they’re making fun of old white fat people with beards,” said Padesky.

Padesky says it surprised him that the board vote was unanimous.    

The city planning office says the request could have been taken up by the preservation commission if it had been submitted on Wednesday.

Padesky says the city council probably can’t stop the removal, but it could vote on funding the removal process, which may cost around $15,000.


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. Ruth

    July 17, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    VOTE KABAT OUT! It seems to be the majority of residents in La Crosse are in favor of keeping the historic statue. Let’s just get rid of and/or politicize every piece of art that a few minority find objectionable, to assuage a few! I seem to remember former Mayor Johnson staring that if we get rid of Myrick Park Zoo, and turn it into a trendy eco park, and make tourists pay to get in…we would have 300,000 people coming through in one summer…think of the revenue!!!! Something to that effect. It is now destroyed and the land is mostly unused! It would have been a treasure had they (a handful of people at City Hall) found ways to improve it!!!I would have paid to get into Myrick Park Zoo!!!! They screwed up! You’d better take the cannon out of Riverside too; it represents war, deaths, killing, etc. I’m not at all comfortable with that! (sarcasm). Lol!

  2. R.T

    July 17, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Is Gary Padesky Native American? How could he possibly know whether it is offensive? The fact that he refers to them as Indians is proof enough of his ignorance,


    July 18, 2020 at 11:09 am


  4. Jack Prong

    July 21, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    Kabat threw the monkey wrench into any opposition by moving fast on what probably was his wife’s suggestion. Kabat did the same thing in grabbing that loan office property near city hall which was stupid. Kabat needed a distraction from his financial ineptitude that is bankrupting the city of La Crosse. I expect more stupid moves from this so called mayor. I advise people that are worried about their own personal safety in a “weak mayoral” town to get a conceal and carry license and pack heat. Remember that “weakness is provocative.” That’s why we’re having recent crime wave: weak mayor. He caves to any mob.

  5. Lu Larson

    August 4, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Do the Indians & city residents (who object to the statue in Riverside Park ) realize that if you take the statue down, how will the public recognize the Indian influence to the history of La Crosse. When the public sees the statue it makes them think about their presence. Taking down the statue will wipe out any thought of Indian culture in the area regardless of what it looks like.

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