THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN MONUMENT IS CONCEIVED - On May 12, 1909 at New York City’s fashionable Sherry’s restaurant, a rich textile merchant by the name of Rodman Wanamaker hosted a dinner party to honor Colonel William Cody. Prominent citizens and members of the press were in attendance. Wanamaker used the opportunity to propose his idea to erect a monument to a dying race, “the North American Indian”. The idea was well received by all in attendance so Wanamaker then turned to Congress, enlisting the aid of West Virginia’s Senator Nathan Scott. The Senator convinced Congress to place the monument on federally owned land in Staten Island known today as Fort Wadsworth.
From that day on, Mr. Wanamaker worked in earnest towards his goal of erecting a North American Indian Monument because he believed the race was fast approaching extinction. He financed expeditions to collect facts, artifacts, film and photograph the doomed people before they slipped into oblivion.
THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN MONUMENT LAW IS ENACTED - On December 8, 1911, Congress brought forth an act which stated, "Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That there be erected, without expense to the “United States Government” by Mr. Wanamaker of New York and others, on a United States reservation, a suitable memorial to the memory of the North American Indian.” The Bill was then signed into law by President William H. Taft.
ANOTHER BROKEN PROMISE TO AMERICA'S INDIGENOUS PEOPLE - World War l began and Daniel Chester French departed to work on the Panama Canal. Charles Moore a member of the Commission of Fine Arts, later called the monument an "ungainly Indian on the roof of a Greek Temple” which turned many people against the monument. Rodman Wanamaker aged and sick, diverted most of his finances to the war. With no champion for the monument and no finances to build it - The National American Indian Monument became just another broken promise to America's indigenous people. The Staten Island Downtown Alliance along with Red Storm Drum & Dance Troupe and musician Jeff Harrell are working together to make the National Indian Monument a reality. Help us by donating today.
PLACEMENT AND DESIGN - The team of Thomas Hastings, architect and Daniel Chester French, sculptor, came up with a plan for the monument. On March 10, 1910 General Leonard Wood finally selected the front portion of Fort Tompkins, the highest rampart within the Fort Wadsworth complex, as the place where the monument would be erected. On April 27, 1912, the Federal Commission of Fine Arts approved both the structure and location.
THE SIZE OF THE MONUMENT - The monuments dimensions were impressively set. The bronze Indian figure would stand at sixty feet. The dominant feature of the sculpture indicates the abandonment of war and the acceptance of peace. This was shown by the left hand hanging at full length with a bow and arrow in it. While the right hand was uplifted palm facing forward with two fingers extended to the sky. Signifying the Indians universal sign for peace. The statue would stand atop a seventy foot high pedestal. The pedestal would stand on top of the thirty five foot tall museum located at the upper most rampart of Fort Wadsworth, thus rising over 300 feet from the water. This would have been higher than the Statue of Liberty.
INDIAN HEAD NICKLE COMMEMORATES THE GROUNDBREAKING - Wanamaker along with photographer Joseph K. Dixon set out on three expeditions to reach out to all the tribes. During the first two expeditions there were many photos taken of the tribes and their lives. There were also two motion pictures filmed Hiawatha and Battle of the Little Big Horn. A book “The Vanishing Race” was published chronicling the event. On the third expedition, “Expedition of Citizenship” an American flag and The Declaration of Allegiance was carried to all tribes. The document was the only one in history to be signed by all tribes and led to the Native Americans gaining citizenship. The Buffalo nickel was also minted for the ground breaking event and was given out to the 32 to chiefs and other dignitaries that attended. On February 22nd 1913 President Taft, 32 Chiefs from many tribes and other dignitaries broke ground at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island NY where the monument was to placed. (Click to watch video of groundbreaking)
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