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The Vanishing Indian 

by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & "H & lt;/span & is hands were broken and his face was broken, his nose was gone -- well, now the whole thing is gone." So it was a sad but necessary decision to pull down and haul away a crumbling statue dedicated to Chief Garry, an early and important tribal figure. At least that's how Karen Mobley, Spokane's arts director, describes her authorization two weeks ago to demolish the weather-damaged and vandalized statue in Chief Garry Park.





But Mobley's decision plays very differently among Spokane tribal leadership and Garry's descendants.





Cast in a different light, it appears that, even after being dead for 116 years, the tribal leader who helped various bands of Spokane Indians peacefully adjust to white settlement was screwed out of his place in the city. Again.





Back in the day, Garry lost his land around present-day Hillyard to white squatters who moved in when he was away fishing. None of the city's leaders, whom Garry may have considered friends after years of close association, helped him get his property back and he died impoverished.





So there's an uncomfortable echo from the past when it was learned that not only was the sculpture of a seated Garry toppled and the rubble hauled off to a local dumping ground known as "the pit," but a foundation for an abstract sculpture created by a white artist was quickly poured on the site.





"I hope this is not the official position of the city that they treat their few Native American heroes in this way," says Jeanne Givens, Garry's great-great-great-granddaughter.





Givens, a former Idaho state representative now living in Bellevue, learned only this week that the statue of her forebear, whom she describes as a calming voice in a time of upheaval, was gone.





"In modern terms, Garry allowed for a 'soft landing' for his people as this area opened to white settlement. If that's something not worth remembering, then we are in a sad state," Givens says.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & harp reaction to the removal of the Garry statue comes from the sense of surprise. A Spokane tribal official was driving along Mission Avenue May 7 when she saw the demolition in progress. That, and the fact that a replacement -- an abstraction of a totem pole by a white artist -- was already lined up for installation on the Garry site.





"I think the tribe could have supported the removal of the statue, especially if it was desecrated," says Rick Sherwood, chairman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council. "But the park is named after Chief Spokane Garry. It's Chief Garry Park and it would be nice to have some monument in there so people know what that means."





A permanent replacement of the Garry sculpture was considered, but was found too expensive for the small budgets of the arts department and the Chief Garry Neighborhood Council, say Mobley and neighborhood council president Kathy Scacco. "They start at $130,000 and go up from there," Scacco says.





Neither entity approached the city council seeking funds.





The neighborhood has been pushing repair or replacement of the Garry statue for at least five years, Scacco says. Mobley has been working on the issue for a couple of years. Each says they made efforts to contact tribal officials for guidance, but heard nothing back.





"To say I threw a letter in the mail ... we get hundreds of letters in a week and it's always good to have follow-up," Sherwood says. "If [Mobley] made a little more effort to get a hold of the tribe -- heck, we're only a phone call away."





In the meantime, Mobley says, she was contacted by the MAC, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, and told that a 1983 piece by artist David Govedare, titled "Totem Ascension," was considered surplus -- "deaccessioned" is the actual art-world term -- and was free for the taking.





"So, I have a free sculpture, right, that I can locate in a city park. And I have a sculpture that, frankly, is pretty bad off and I have the opportunity to work with the neighborhood to make lemons out of lemonade if you will," Mobley says.





Seemed like a no-brainer to swap one for the other, especially, she says, after getting no response to letters she sent off a year ago.





Except that, to indigenous sensibilities, replacing Chief Garry with a totem pole is akin to putting the Eiffel Tower in Poland and saying it's all European.





"'Totem Ascension' is a nice piece of work, but it's not a nice piece for that park," says Richard Bruce, a Spokane tribal member who also works at the MAC. "Totems aren't Plateau culture, they are from the coast. This park is named after a Plateau chief, Chief Garry. Why would you put a totem there? Just because it seems 'Indian'?"





"I don't think there is anyone to blame here," says Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, who says she was approached several years ago by neighborhood council officials Scacco and Kathy Gunderson.





"I know from my personal conversations with the two Kathys that they were very, very concerned about, and respectful of, Chief Garry," Verner says.





Before being elected mayor, Verner was executive director of UCUT, the Upper Columbia United Tribes, a coalition of five regional tribes including the Spokanes.





At least twice at policy meetings, Verner says, "I asked, 'Is anybody interested in replacing or restoring the Chief Garry statue in Chief Garry Park?' It never got traction."





It is likely that no one in tribal circles realized the extent of damage. When news accounts say the statue was built in place in 1979 with concrete and rebar, it creates an impression of solidity. Not so.





The statue was constructed by the late Native American artist Michael Paul, a highly regarded painter. The Garry statue is believed to be one of a very few sculptures that Paul created.





He made an internal form out of Styrofoam beads -- and even empty cans for more bulk -- and stuccoed the form over to create the statue. Rebar shaped and supported the limbs.





The work was hollow and too fragile for Spokane weather. Water and snowmelt seeped through cracks. Expansion from freezing water inside created more cracks. The weather was destroying the statue as much as vandalism.





"I pretty much knew it was hollow, but there was two feet of water inside. That was a surprise," says Greg Bacon, who won the demolition contract. He found the Garry statue in sad shape. "His nose was gone, his chin was gone. Somebody climbed up there and beat on it ... beat all the fingers off except the middle one," he says.





Bacon used a jackhammer bit on a Bobcat to break up the pedestal. To his surprise, the whole statue fell over and crumbled apart when it hit the ground. "It busted up when I tipped it over on the ground. I went in too fast," he says.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & G & lt;/span & arry's gone. The statue in his memory was one of the very few public artworks in Spokane that acknowledge the indigenous culture. Michael Holloman, the MAC's liaison to area tribes, says the misfire in Mobley's scant efforts to reach the tribe are understandable. Indians have been shoved out of sight.





"They are so close, but so far away. And that's because we put them away. Wellpinit's over here. Plummer's over there. We intentionally put them away from us."





Especially frustrating in Spokane, he says, "Spokane Falls was one of the largest American Indian meeting places in all of North America."





Richard Bruce adds, "When I was riding my bike to work this morning I started looking at all the statues through the whole (Riverfront) park. I didn't see anything that says anything about the local tribe."





Garry's ancestor Jeanne Givens says an absence of leadership created the mindset that the Garry statue was just a maintenance problem and nothing more. She promises to shake things up and help start a campaign for a permanent replacement. And Verner made the same promise to replace the monument. "I certainly can do that, and I am willing to do that," she told The Inlander.





The old one is all the way gone. Early one morning this week, a Central Pre-Mix employee who works at "the pit" searched in vain for the Garry statue.





"I just walked the whole thing looking for it. Chief Garry, unfortunately for him, he's buried."





kevin@inlander.com





Arts Director Karen Mobley says people may donate towards a permanent replacement monument to Chief Garry at the Spokane Arts Fund, c/o Spokane Arts Commission, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. 99201.

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