Sunday, November 15, 2015

Indiana Giver

Toth working on one of his creations
I was in Vincennes IN recently checking out the gubernatorial home of frontier General and brief 9th US President William Henry Harrison. I was aware of a nearby 23' wood carving of  Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh, Harrison's adversary in the beginning of the 19th century, and planned to stop by. It was a nice bonus that geocache had been placed near the statue since it was a Tecumseh historical sign early in my geocaching life that sparked my interest in this era of history.

It was pretty impressive seeing it up close but I had WHH on my mind and really hadn't thought much more about it since that visit. I figured it was a one-off thing by a local artist, which in itself would still be pretty cool. The real story is more impressive though. It turns out that this was made by a guy named Peter Wolf  Toth. Nope, he's not the guy in the J. Geils Band either.

Since 1974, Toth has created a series of 74 sculptures across North America called the Trail of the Whispering Giants to honor Native Americans. It's to honor his own heritage right? Nope. He's not even Indian. He wasn't even born in North America. He's from Hungary. His dirt poor family fled during the 1956 Soviet takeover and settled in Akron OH at a young age. He later developed an interest in Native American culture and history in his new country. Paul saw in their story a parallel to the violent repression he had experienced in Hungary. In fact, his only non-Indian statue is #73 of St. Stephan, King of Hungary c.1000AD. Toth completed that one in 2008 in his native country.
my view of Chief Tecumseh in Vincennes IN
He has one in his adopted hometown of Akron called Rotayna he sculpted in 1985.
Chief Tecumseh in Vincennes IN is the most recent statue #74 completed in 2009. It is made of oak and stands 23' tall.

Unfortunately, some of the other statues have been destroyed by rot, termites, lightning, disease or other natural forces over the years, including his first one in CA made of stone. He is trying to replace the ones that he can. Toth accepts no money for his sculptures and works odd jobs in between projects.

For more about Peter Wolf Toth and his work, use the links above. His bio even mentions that geocachers have used the sites of his statues for geocaches.

Also, I mean no disrespect with the blog post title. It's a slight play on the title of his 1983 book, Indian Giver: Gifts Of Statues For All 50 States To Honor The Indian