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Statue project closer to goal as fundraising continues

Gareth Curtiss of Olympia, Wash., was selected in May to produce a 9-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Shaynowishkung, also known as Chief Bemidji, based off of the models he produced for a local committee’s consideration. BETHANY WESLEY | BEMIDJI PIONEER

BEMIDJI – The committee raising funds to commission a new Chief Bemidji statue is hoping to meet its goal of $70,000 by the end of the year.

According to a press release from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, they have just $15,000 left to raise before they can commission a new statue of Shaynowishkung.

The hope is to replace the existing wooden Chief Bemidji statute along the Lake Bemidji waterfront and publish an educational brochure about him and his impact on the community.

Their request for a $6,000 grant from the Region 2 Arts Council was rejected, according to a newsletter from the city of Bemidji. But Carolyn Jacobs, the co-chair of the Chief Bemidji Statue committee, said Thursday that they are waiting for a response from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for a $10,000 grant request.

The committee may also submit a proposal to the Beltrami County Board’s development fund later this fall. But the amount of that request will depend on the outcome of pending requests, Jacobs said.

They have already received a $25,000 matching grant from the George W. Neilson Foundation, a $37,000 contribution from the city of Bemidji for site development expenses. Businesses, individuals, tribes and other groups have donated more than $31,000 to the Northwest Minnesota Foundation for the project, according to the press release.

Earlier this year, the Chief Bemidji statue committee chose Gareth Curtiss, of Olympia, Wash., to design and produce a life-size-and-a-half bronze sculpture of Shaynowishkung, who was given the honorary title of Chief Bemidji by early settlers.

One of three finalists, Curtiss offered a model of Chief Bemidji, with a Bear Clan pipe on his left arm and a diamond willow walking stick in his right hand, looking out beyond that which is directly in front of him.

He will be paid $70,000 for the piece, which will replace the 60-year-old wooden Chief Bemidji statue, carved by retired lumberjack Eric Boe, now in Library Park.

The finished sculpture will stand 9 feet, 3 inches tall, including the base. The sculpture itself will be 8 feet, 7 inches, which is the exact height of the current sculpture.

Tax deductible donations can be made to “The Chief Bemidji Statue Project” fund at Northwest Minnesota Foundation. Secure online donation is available at, or checks can be sent to Chief Bemidji Statue Fund-NMF, 4225 Technology Drive NW, Bemidji, MN 56601.  

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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