Money raising efforts could start soon for a new section in La Crosse’s International Friendship Gardens.
The city’s park board has voted in favor of an Indigenous people’s garden concept to be placed near the dock of the La Crosse Queen in Riverside Park.
The president of the friendship gardens, Chuck Hanson, said during the meeting that the garden would feature a metal sculpture of Betsy Thunder, who was a medicine woman for the Ho-Chunk nation.
The Betsy Thunder sculpture would weigh about 400 pounds. Sculptor Dennis Downs has been chosen for the project. Hanson is starting fundraising for the estimated $300,000 cost of the garden proposal.
“She’s gonna be on a blanket, with her hand outstretched, in a healing gesture,” Hanson told the board late last week. “I think it’s a very powerful thing that they’re suggesting because they’ve explained to me that they want to express they’re part of the community, and this is part of healing.”
Hanson added that Ho-Chunk was given the task of deciding what would be placed in the Indigenous garden.
He said this is a good time for such a garden to be developed because “the old cement Indian is down,” referring to the Hiawatha statue, which was removed from the riverfront in 2020, after standing on that spot for about 60 years.
There were many protests about Hiawatha over the years, mainly criticizing the statue as a caricature of Native Americans.
A final city hall vote on the garden plans could happen as soon as January.