The End of the Trail





We finally made it to the finish line of NaBloPoMo!


The End of the Trail (Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma)

Thinking about endings, I remembered this statue from the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The statue is lucky it survived at all, but it has become an iconic image over the years.

In 1894, James Earle Fraser designed the model for this sculpture out of a desire to portray the removal of Native American peoples from their ancestral lands, and the end of their way of life. This 18 foot plaster version was created for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco;  it was enormously popular, and was widely reproduced in postcards and miniature curios.

Fraser hoped his masterpiece would be cast in bronze and placed on Presidio Point overlooking San Francisco Bay as a lasting memorial, but scarcity of resources during World War I made that impossible. Instead, the plaster was cut up and discarded at the end of the exposition. In 1920, some sympathetic people salvaged the plaster and reassembled the sculpture; it stood in Mooney Grove Park near Visalia for 48 years.

In 1968, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame acquired the sculpture; finally, in 1994, it found its current home in Oklahoma City.

Now think about what the Native American tribes endured: removed from their lands, broken apart and scattered, forgotten, brought to new lands, again removed, eventually ending up on reservations (many in Oklahoma). Now they are a tourist attraction.

Did this sculpture not relive the whole tragedy in itself? It is more than a monument; it is an encapsulated history, a silent soul.


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