Future of Hiawatha statue in Riverside park to be decided on Thursday

Local News

Monday, La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat sent a letter to the city’s Board of Park Commissioners requesting the removal of the Hiawatha Statue from Riverside Park.

The statue has been in the park since the 1960′s, but the last two years the artist’s family have been asking for it back.

The mayor says the timing feels right following the cultural awakening happening throughout the country.

“We are really trying to work as a community to identify things we can improve upon when it comes to how we treat especially Black and Indigenous people of color in our community,” Kabat said.

Funding has been set aside in the proposed plan to remove and store the piece of art in the city’s Municipal Service Center.

The artist’s family is still looking to secure a new permanent location.

Kabat says the statue always seemed to have some controversy surrounding it.

“It was pretty clear to me that it was controversial when it was first proposed [in 1962] because the City Council, at least in our research, never actually took action to accept the statue,” said Kabat.

Mayor Kabat says he believes the statue can be removed during the calendar year and that the city will continue to honor the Ho-Chunk Nation in its place.

“[We want] to commemorate that site as an important place for native people, as well as to honor Anthony Zimmerhakl the artist,” Kabat said.

According to the city, residents have strong feelings one way or another over the statue.

“I love this statue, I think it is such a great reminder of the Indian heritage here,” said Ted Habel, a La Crosse resident. “I think it’s a positive expression.”

Having lived in La Crosse for 30+ years that appreciation extends to his family.

“My wife and I have several adopted children and one of them is at least 50 percent Menomonie Indian from Wisconsin and he is proud of this statue,” Habel said.

The statue’s removal will be discussed Thursday evening at the city’s Board of Park Commissioners meeting. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

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