Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Something About Wenonah

Story of a statue.

A long ago, forgotten email in the Bellairsia inbox suggests there is a Bellairs-Ryder “crossover” (their words) because Bellairs lived in the town actor Winona Ryder was born. Okay.  Eh, he lived there the decade before she was born and when she finally appeared, Bellairs was in Massachusetts. Maybe he knew who Lydia Deetz and Kim Boggs were, I don’t know. I once lived in a town where Dave Lennox impersonated a furnace, and you don’t see me bragging.

More recently, thankfully, someone sent in an email about the statue of Winona there in the town. No, it’s not the actress. Wenonah was a Dakota Sioux, who was said to have leaped to her death from a high precipice rather than marry a suitor she did not love. Good ol' Wikipedia explains it for the uninitiated:
There are several variations of the story. Winona's father is sometimes said to be Chief Wabasha (Wapasha) of a village identified as Keoxa, now known as Winona, Minnesota, or perhaps Chief Red Wing of what is now Red Wing, Minnesota. Rather than marry a suitor she does not love, Winona chooses to leap from the cliff of Maiden Rock to her death. The story is very similar to the apocryphal legend of a young Cherokee woman of Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama, as well as events in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans.
The so-called "Maiden Rock" is just south of the town of the same name in Wisconsin.

The city of Winona, Minnesota, unveiled a statue of their namesake back in the early 1900s. Author Hanna Larson, writing in the Writing in Winona section of Medium.com, researched the history of the city’s traveling (not leaping) statue.
The Princess Wenonah statue was created by Isabel Moore Kimball, a sculptor who taught drawing for a while at the Winona Normal School. She began creating the sculpture in 1900 and finished in 1902. According to the Winona Post, while Isabel was teaching in Winona, she met a man named William J. Landon. William J. Landon wanted to pay tribute to his late wife and needed Isabel’s help to do so, and the two thought of creating the Princess Wenonah statue. The statue was a gift to the city from W. J. Landon as a tribute to wife, Ida Cone Landon, and originally cost $5,000 to create. Interestingly enough, the statue is not based on real drawings or images of Princess Wenonah. Kimball used an Abenaki Indian woman, named Beulah Tahamon, as a model for facial features of the statue. The statue of Princess Wenonah is made of bronze and she is armed with a bow-and-arrow, shielding her eyes from the sun. She is surrounded by a trio of bronze pelicans that shoot water from their beaks and three bronze turtles. The statue is a powerful piece of art that resembles Princess Wenonah moments before she leapt for love. 
The article continues to note why the Wenonah statue is the most traveled sculpture in town, have been relocated from one point in Winona to another over the last century.  Today, as it has been for the last quarter-century, the statue is located at the center of Windom Park, itself at the northwest corner of the intersection of Huff and Broadway streets.

2 comments:

Jean said...

Apropos of nothing in Minnesota, here's something I just found at the Library of Congress site while working on something completely different: https://www.loc.gov/item/2014636567/

broteus mitchell said...

HA!