Celebrating Native American Heritage: Whispering Giants

Statue of the Cherokee leader Sequoyah, Cherokee, N.C. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006. Print and Photographs Division.

Statue of the Cherokee leader Sequoyah, Cherokee, N.C. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006. Print and Photographs Division.

November is Native American Heritage Month and a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. When looking through the Library’s collections to find blog post ideas, I came across this picture of a carved statue of Cherokee leader Sequoyah taken by photographer Carol M. Highsmith. It actually reminded me of a similar piece of art found in my hometown of Ocean Springs, Miss. – that of another large carved sculpture of a Native American. The statue, known as Crooked Feather, sits overlooking Highway 90, just east of the Biloxi Bridge. The local landmark has been there for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always wondered the story behind it.

Prior to its colonization in 1699, the area along the Gulf Coast was inhabited by American Indian tribes including the Bylocchy, Pascoboula and Moctoby. Crooked Feather is a composite of the area’s first settlers. The 30-foot sculpture is carved from a cypress log five-feet wide by 11-feet high. The original Crooked Feather was created in 1975 by Hungarian artist Peter Wolf Toth and officially donated to the city a year later. However, due to termite damage, Toth’s work was replaced in 1999 by a replica carving done by Thomas King.

Crooked Feather was part of Toth’s sculpture series called “Trail of the Whispering Giants” paying tribute to the tribal people of the country. Some 74 sculptures, including at least one in every state, as well as parts of Canada and Hungary, are part of the collection. Turns out, the Highsmith photograph of Sequoyah is also one of Toth’s creations that can be found in Cherokee, N.C.

Peter Toth sculpting Crooked Feather in 1975 and the completed memorial photographed in March 1997. Photo courtesy of Ocean Springs Archives.

Peter Toth sculpting Crooked Feather in 1975 and the completed memorial photographed in March 1997. Photo courtesy of Ocean Springs Archives.

The Library is marking Native American Heritage Month with a  topic page in partnership with other federal agencies like the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives and the National Portrait Gallery. The site includes online resources related to Native American history.  In addition, the Library has launched a Pinterest board dedicated to Native American Heritage Month, featuring images from the Library’s collections.

You can read more about Sequoyah in this blog post from the Library’s Inside Adams blog and another post from the Prints and Photographs blog.

The Library’s blogosphere has several other posts highlighting Native American Heritage Month and related collections and resources. Make sure to check back for new posts. In the meantime, here are some great posts relating to Native American music, legislation and teacher resources.

 

 

 

 

 

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