Statue of Chief Joseph Recommended for U.S. Capitol


Richard Walker, Indian Country Today


A state commission has recommended to legislators that statues of two pre-statehood figures representing Oregon in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall be replaced by statues of Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph and women’s rights advocate Abigail Scott Duniway.

If approved by Oregon’s legislature, Chief Joseph’s statue would be the eighth of an indigenous figure in the National Statuary Hall. The others:

Sequoyah (c. 1770-1840), creator of the Cherokee syllabary; given by Oklahoma in 1917.

William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers, Cherokee (1879-1935), entertainer and social commentator; given by Oklahoma in 1939.

Kamehameha I, king of Hawaii (1758-1819); given by Hawaii in 1969.

Chief Washakie (c. 1798-1900), Eastern Shoshone leader; given by Wyoming in 2000.

Sacagawea, Lemhi Shoshone (c. 1788-1812), guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark Expedition; given by North Dakota in 2003.

Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute (1844-1891), educator, author, and defender of her people’s rights; given by Nevada in 2005.

Po’pay, Tewa (c. 1630-c. 1688), leader of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt against Spanish colonial rule; given by New Mexico in 2005.

Sequoyah’s statue was the first representing a Native American to be placed in Statuary Hall. Kamehameha’s statue, at 9 feet 10 inches tall on a 3-foot-6-inch granite base, is the largest and heaviest in Statuary Hall. The statue of Po’pay is the first in Statuary Hall by a Native American artist, Cliff Fragua, Jemez Pueblo. Gov. John Kitzhaber, Dr. John McLoughlin, Rev. Jason Lee,

Since 2003, seven states have replaced statues with those representing figures they feel better represent their history or contributions to humankind. In August 2014, then-Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber established the Statuary Hall Study Commission to determine whether Oregon’s statues of pre-statehood leaders Dr. John McLoughlin (1784-1857) and Rev. Jason Lee (1803-1845) should remain or be replaced by other notable Oregonians.

Commission chairman Jerry Hudson notified Kitzhaber and legislative leaders on January 26 that the commission had unanimously agreed to recommend the statues of McLoughlin, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s superintendent at Fort Vancouver, and Lee, missionary and founder of Willamette University, be returned to “places of honor” in Oregon and that “two equally worthy individuals who represent different chapters in Oregon’s history” be installed in National Statuary Hall, according to the commission’s website.

On March 4, the commission made the recommendation formal with a vote. According to, Chief Joseph received seven votes from the nine-member commission, Duniway received six.

Jim Boyd is chairman of the Confederate Tribes of the Colville Reservation, where descendants of Chief Joseph’s Wallowa band are enrolled today.

“The statue of Chief Joseph at Statuary Hall in D.C. will be a great honor to Chief Joseph and to all those who have been left a legacy that has helped mold who we are today as very proud Indian people,” Boyd said.

“He stood strong and fought hard for his people and territory in a way that will always be remembered, and will continue to inspire and guide what will be for generations to come. It is a great thing that the state of Oregon is initiating this legislation.”

According to a state biography, Chief Joseph, or Heinmot Tooyalakekt (Thunder Rising to Loftier Mountain Heights), was born in 1840 in the Wallowa Valley of eastern Oregon. His father, Tuekakas, was the leader of the largest of independent Nimiipuu, or Nez Perce, bands living in Oregon, central Idaho, and southeastern Washington. Heinmot Tooyalakekt became leader in 1871 upon his father’s death.

Heinmot Tooyalakekt’s band never agreed to an 1863 treaty that surrendered 90 percent of Nimiipuu lands, and resisted the federal government’s order to abandon their ancestral lands and move onto a small reservation.

According to the biography: “In meetings and councils from 1874 to 1877 with army officers, Indian agents, and a delegation from Washington, D.C., [Heinmot Tooyalakekt] argued persistently that the resistant Nez Perce bands were not bound by the 1863 treaty. As a follower of the Dreamer religion of the Columbia Plateau, he pleaded as well that his people were intimately bound to their homeland and could never leave it, and that to become farmers, as the government insisted, would violate the Earth Mother.”

In spring 1877, Gen. Oliver O. Howard, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific Northwest, insisted that all resisting bands report to the reservation within a month. (According to another bio, this forced removal violated the 1855 Treaty of Walla Walla, in which the Nez Perce reserved 7.5 million acres of their ancestral lands and the right to hunt and fish in their usual and accustomed territory.) Howard’s order resulted in the Nez Perce War of June to October 1877.

Heinmot Tooyalakekt and other Nimiipuu were captured 40 miles from the U.S.-Canada border. It was here, at the base of the Bear’s Paw Mountains near present-day Chinook, Montana, that Heinmot Tooyalakekt made his brief speech of surrender that reportedly ended with, “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

According to the state’s biography, Heinmot Tooyalakekt “was never a war leader. He was, rather, a diplomat and a negotiator, and he made his greatest contribution in that role after the war.” The U.S. exiled the Nimiipuu to Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma. For eight years, Heinmot Tooyalakekt campaigned for his people’s return to the Pacific Northwest. He spoke with the press, politicians and President Rutherford B. Hayes about the injustices committed against his people.

Finally, in 1885, the Nimiipuu were allowed to return to reservations in Idaho and Washington, but not to eastern Oregon. Heinmot Tooyalakekt visited, but never again lived in, the Wallowa Valley.

Heinmot Tooyalakekt, Chief Joseph, died in his home on the Colville Reservation on September 21, 1904. His grave, marked by a large monument, is in Nespelem on the reservation.

First statue placed in 1870

According to the Architect of the U.S. Capitol: National Statuary Hall, located south of the Rotunda, was the meeting place of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1807 to 1857.

In 1864, in accordance with legislation sponsored by Rep. Justin Morrill of Vermont, Congress invited each state to contribute two statues of prominent citizens for permanent display in the room, which was renamed National Statuary Hall. The first statue was placed in 1870.

“Today, National Statuary Hall is one of the most popular rooms in the U.S. Capitol Building,” according to the Architect’s website, “It is visited by thousands of tourists each day and continues to be used for ceremonial occasions. Special events held in the room include activities honoring foreign dignitaries and presidential luncheons.”



Will Endangered Seattle School Murals Be Saved?

Courtesy Andrew Morrison

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today Media Network

SEATTLE – For months, murals depicting Chief Joseph, Chief Seattle, and Natives in regalia and on horseback have been threatened with demolition—but a grassroots effort to save them may yet prove successful.

Supporters say the murals on the outside walls of the Seattle School District’s Wilson-Pacific Building are more than art. They are symbolic of the indigenous presence in the Pacific Northwest’s largest city.

Artist Andrew Morrison, Haida/Apache, painted the murals to honor the area’s Native peoples and historical leaders, such as Chief Si’ahl, the Duwamish-Suquamish leader for whom the City of Seattle is named.

Since 1974, Wilson-Pacific has been the home of American Indian Heritage School, now called American Indian Heritage Middle College High School. The school is located in Seattle’s Licton Springs neighborhood, which takes its name from the Lushootseed word “Liq’tid” (LEEK-teed), for the reddish mud of the springs that are still visible today.

So when the school was threatened with demolition to make way for construction of a new elementary and middle school—and Indian Heritage School students moved to a classroom at a nearby mall—the indigenous community rallied.

As of this writing, it appears their voices are being heard. Construction of a new elementary and middle school will still happen, but there’s a chance the walls containing the murals will be incorporated into the new school buildings. The project architect, Mahlum, has a reputation for engaging communities in the design process and incorporating into the final design those things that are important to the community. Mahlum’s previous Native-community projects include the Puyallup Tribe’s Chief Leschi School.

“The district wants to honor this work and has reached out to have ongoing discussions with the artist on how to preserve the murals,” Seattle School District project manager Eric Becker told ICTMN through the district’s public information office. “It is the district’s intent to honor the murals. Art historians have suggested several ways that this might happen. We will continue to work with the artist, design team and community to determine which option will be selected.”

Regarding how the campus’s role in Native education and racial integration might be represented in the new school buildings (as Wilson-Pacific School, it was one of the first integrated schools in Seattle), Becker said, “The School Design Advisory Team, comprised of district staff, the architect and community members, will meet to discuss all aspects of the new [elementary and middle school].”

Superintendent Jose Banda wrote in a May 10 letter to Indian Heritage School families, “a design team will be formed to look at future uses and design of the campus.” In addition, he invited applicants for a new Native American Advisory Committee to advise the district on implementing Native American education in local schools.

Tracy Rector, a filmmaker and mayor-appointed member of the Seattle Arts Commission, participated in the rallies to save Indian Heritage School and the murals.

“Andrew has rallied and inspired people to come around and support this sacred historical space for Native American families,” said Rector, Seminole/Choctaw. “It’s been powerful. It sounded like the school district was bent on tearing [the school and murals] down. This has changed the game quite a bit.”

Morrison, his brother and sister attended American Indian Heritage School, one of five local schools in which students receive more individualized attention and can take community college courses. In addition, Indian Heritage School offers culturally-based classes, and hosts an annual pow-wow, Native Youth Conference, and Native basketball tournaments. Morrison remembers the school being “the nucleus of the community.”

According to Morrison, “By 1992, the success of Indian Heritage [School] could not be denied. Not only did Indian Heritage graduate every student, but graduates also enrolled in post-secondary or vocational school.” When the school celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1994, it was noted that every student that graduated from Indian Heritage School in the two previous years enrolled in college.

In 2001, after his freshman year of college, Morrison volunteered at the school and painted the first of his 25-foot murals, often enlisting the help of students and community members.

The controversy began last year, after the district proposed a tax levy to replace the 60-year-old Wilson-Pacific buildings with a new middle school and elementary school. The Urban Native Education Alliance and the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation called for the district to renovate Wilson-Pacific, rather than demolish it, in so doing ensuring the Indian Heritage School would continue and the murals would be preserved.

The tax levy was approved by voters. The school district made plans to move Indian Heritage School students to the middle college program at Northgate Mall for the 2013-14 school year, and proposed making digital images of the murals so they could be replicated later. Morrison wouldn’t consent to the replication of his work. On March 6, the school board approved the contract for construction of a new school and recommended only a Native American honoring of Wilson-Pacific prior to its demolition.

On May 15, an Idle No More rally was held at school district offices. At the school board meeting that followed, Urban Native Education Alliance chairwoman Sarah Sense-Wilson, Oglala Lakota, said the district has withdrawn resources and removed Native instructors from Indian Heritage School over the years, “rendering the program a shell of what was once a vibrant, successful, visible program.”

Sense-Wilson said merging Indian Heritage School with the middle college program at the mall would be an act of institutional racism and classism, “assimilating Native learners and further distancing them from their cultural identity, heritage and connection with the Native community, and ultimately a poignant loss of a distinct, unique Native-focused program, which at one time bridged culture, tradition, history, Native perspective and connection with the community.”

She asked that Indian Heritage School be moved to another campus. “We do know there is space at various schools,” she said.

Dr. Carol Simmons, a retired Seattle educator, alluded that destroying a Native school program and Native art on a historically indigenous site would be a continuation of the “historical devastation and destruction of Native culture and the mistreatment of Native students in our schools.”

She said, “These murals must be preserved with dignity and not disrespectfully digitized. This important school must be treasured and not demeaned by placing it in a shopping mall.”

Other speakers included former state Sen. Claudia Kauffman, Nez Perce, who also asked that a permanent home be found for Indian Heritage School. “This is more than just an educational institution. It’s [a place] for the community in which we gather together.”

Banda said he met the day before with concerned residents about Indian Heritage School. He said he will continue to meet with Native American families and a new coalition “to discuss the next steps” regarding the school. “We truly value our relationship with our Native American families and we look forward to working with our families and community members to more effectively support our Native students,” he said.

He referred to the murals as “artifacts” and said the district will work “to ensure we protect those artifacts.”

On May 22, Morrison and Banda had a conversation and made amends; their relationship had been strained by months of protests and press coverage. Morrison is creating a portrait of the late Bob Eaglestaff, principal of Indian Heritage school in the 1980s and ’90s, as a gift to the school district. He’s also offered to paint, at his own expense, mural portraits of Geronimo and Sitting Bull at the current Indian Heritage School campus.

“Chief Seattle, Chief Joseph, Chief Geronimo and Chief Sitting Bull will complete our four directions and this will solidify a commitment between the Seattle Public Schools, the Native American community, my family, and me,” Morrison said.

For more of the story, visit

Artist Andrew Morrison talks to Native Youth Conference participants about the murals he painted at American Indian Heritage Middle College High School. The conference was April 16-18 at the school. The walls with the murals may be incorporated into the new school that is proposed to be built at the site. Photos courtesy Andrew Morrison.
Artist Andrew Morrison talks to Native Youth Conference participants about the murals he painted at American Indian Heritage Middle College High School. The conference was April 16-18 at the school. The walls with the murals may be incorporated into the new school that is proposed to be built at the site. Photos courtesy Andrew Morrison.


Courtesy Andrew Morrison.
Courtesy Andrew Morrison.
Courtesy Andrew Morrison.
Courtesy Andrew Morrison.
Courtesy Andrew Morrison.
Courtesy Andrew Morrison.


An Idle No More rally was held May 15 at the Seattle School District offices. Photo by Andrew Morrison.
An Idle No More rally was held May 15 at the Seattle School District offices. Photo by Andrew Morrison.
Photo by Andrew Morrison
Photo by Andrew Morrison
Students hold signs calling for the Seattle School Board to move American Indian Heritage Middle College High School to another campus. Photo by Andrew Morrison.
Students hold signs calling for the Seattle School Board to move American Indian Heritage Middle College High School to another campus. Photo by Andrew Morrison.