The city of Hillsboro will work with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to replace the Chief Kno-Tah statue, city staff said this week.
The statue, built in 1986 in Shute Park, was damaged during a storm earlier this year, exposing widespread rot and decay in the massive Douglas fir log. On June 7, the city announced it would remove the statue due to safety concerns.
Dave Miletich, director of Hillsboro's Parks and Recreation Department, said the city reached out to the Tribes and will work on a new piece of public art which will recognize the native peoples who lived in the Hillsboro area.
"The best part of this conversation [about replacing the carving] is it's an opportunity to do something really meaningful, significant and culturally appropriate in Hillsboro," Miletich said. "[We want] a partnership between Hillsboro and the Tribes that tells the story of what actually represents Native American history in Hillsboro."
It's not clear when a replacement art piece will be erected, or if it will stand as prominently as Chief Kno-Tah has for decades. Miletich said a plaque depicting the history of the statue and Shute Park will be installed near where the statue stands today.
Some supporters of the statue have said it should be maintained because it is a reminder of the tribes that lived in the area before white settlers came, something the Confederated Tribes has denied.
"While we value and appreciate the interest of Hillsboro's citizens in our ancestors, we desire that artwork and interpretation accurate to our people is available for such a purpose," David Harrelson, the Tribes' Cultural Resources Department Manager, said in a statement Feb. 28. "The Shute Park carving does not look like our ancestors or represent our artistic traditions."
Whether accurate or not, Miletich said the carving has become culturally important to Hillsboro residents. City officials weighed options for months before deciding to remove the statue, Miletich said.
Located a few miles down the road from Shute Park, Harvey's Marine, in Aloha, has offered to take the statue and repair it. The statue would stand near Harvey's large rabbit statue.
Miletich said the city wouldn't take the company up on its offer, because it's not clear if the statue would be stable enough for the ride to Aloha. Miletich said t the carving has a 2- to 3-inch shell of good wood and a rotten core.
"It could simply implode into many pieces at that point," Miletich said.
The statue is one of dozens of carvings made over three decades by artist Peter "Wolf" Toth as part of the "Trail of the Whispering Giants" project. Two were carved in Oregon: Chief Kno-Tah and Ikala Nawan, which remains near the Youngs Bay bridge in Astoria. A carving was made in Vancouver, Wash., in the mid-1970s, but the statue was removed decades ago.
Many of the statues across the country have been removed in various states of disrepair. Some have been moved or restored, and two are listed as "missing."