Monday, November 7, 2011

Chief Bemidji



The postcard above is Shaynowishkung, commonly called Chief Bemidji . The following information is from the back of the postcard.
He was the leader of about 50 Indians who had settled along the south shores of Lake Bemidji, Minn. Actually, he was the 'chief Indian' or spokesman for the group and he was not a chief and his name was not Bemidji. In Ojibway, his name was Shaynowishkung--a word which means 'rattler.' When the first white men arrived in this area, they were met by him and upon asking his name, were given instead the name of the lake, which sounded to them like Bemidji. Thus, he was called Chief Bemidji.

The next postcard is the first statue of Chief Bemidji, carved in 1901.



The last postcard is the second (and current) statue of Chief Bemidji made in 1952. There are currently efforts to create a third statue in bronze. Critics of the current statue feel that it is not artistic or respectful.



The following information is from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture database and was taken from a plaque by the statue donated in 1993.
Shaynowishkung known as "Chief Bemidji" 1824-1904. In the 1800s, Shaynowishkung and a band of Ojibwe Indians lived on the south shore of a lake known to fur traders as Lac Traverse. The Ojibwe word for traverse is bemidgegumaug, and it means 'the river (route) flowing crosswise.' As time passed, the lake was called "Bemidji." The first white settlers, George E. and Merian E. Carson came in 1888. Shaynowishkung housed and fed them and others. Although he was not a tribal chief, those early homesteaders respectfully called him “Chief Bemidji." When his daughter, Bahgahmaushequay, married Marian Carson, Bemidji's first postmaster, the relationship was cemented between the original inhabitants and the white settlers. In 1896, the northernmost town of the Mississippi River was incorporated and it was named Bemidji. Lumberjack Gustaf Hinche carved the first Chief Bemidji statue in 1901, honoring a living Shaynowishkung. In 1904, the town mourned Shaynowishkung's death and erected a monument in his name at the Greenwood Cemetery. In 1927 Bemidji's park commission placed Hinche's 'Chief Bemidji' statue in Library Park to overlook the flowage of the Mississippi River through Lake Bemidji. Years and weather took its toll on the original statue and it was replaced in 1952 by a replica carved by retired lumberjack Eric Boe. Coated with fiberglass to protect it from the elements, it remains a symbol of esteem for the Ojibwe Indian Shaynowishkung, known honorably as 'Chief Bemidji.' Plaque donated by Joyce Bedeson Skelton, Oct. 1993.

More history of Chief Bemidji can be found here.


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