Monument Unveiling

In 2005, a 24ft statue was unveiled at the University of Wyoming. This highly visible statue, by Cody sculptor Dave McGary, will grace the campus for generations to come. Wyoming Signatures’ Ben Froidevaux spoke to the artist and descendants of Chief Washakie.

A new Wyoming landmark was unveiled today (Sept. 30, 2005 ) as the University of Wyoming dedicated a spectacular painted 24-foot bronze sculpture depicting Chief Washakie on horseback at the Battle of Crowheart Butte.

The ceremony, attended by hundreds of UW students, staff, and faculty, as well as state officials and residents of Laramie and the Wind River Indian Reservation, took place south of the university dining center on Grand Avenue, which bear’s Chief Washakie’s name.

Washakie, the last chief of the Shoshone tribe, is remembered as a statesman, a respected warrior and a champion of education for his people. In 2004, the Wyoming State Legislature appropriated $150,000 to create a sculpture honoring Chief Washakie, to be erected on UW’s Laramie campus.

Bob Peck, Wyoming state senator from Fremont County, who chaired the Legislature’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations, which worked with university administrators on selecting and citing the sculpture, was among the speakers. He said, “‘Battle of Two Hearts’ depicts the courage of Chief Washakie, risking his own life to spare the lives of his warriors. Washakie believed education would be the weapon to protect his people from harm in the coming days.”

Other speakers were Wyoming State Sen. Cale Case, of Lander, and former U.S. Senator from Wyoming Al Simpson. Haman Wise, Shoshone elder from Fort Washakie, delivered the opening prayer.

The sculpture, “Battle of Two Hearts,” was created by Paradise Valley, Ariz., artist and Cody native Dave McGary, who also crafted the sculpture of Chief Washakie that represents the state of Wyoming in the United States Capitol. “Battle of Two Hearts” was trucked to Laramie in three pieces, assembled on campus and installed on Thursday, Sept. 29.

During the ceremony, McGary said, “I stand here today as a proud child of Wyoming. Proud to know my wonderful wife Molly and I know our daughter Bronwyn and future generations can see and learn from this monument to a great leader.”

Friday’s dedication ceremony prominently featured aspects of Chief Washakie’s Shoshone heritage that have carried through to the 21st century. UW Trustee James Trosper, great-great-grandson of Chief Washakie, and Chuck Washakie, a great-grandson of Chief Washakie, performed a “cedaring” of the sculpture in a time-honored Native American ceremony.

UW President Tom Buchanan accepted the sculpture on behalf of the university, and joined UW Trustee President Judy Richards, UW Native American student Reinette Curry, Washakie family member Zedora Enos, and Peck in unveiling the sculpture. State Rep. Ross Diercks performed an original song about the state of Wyoming. An honor dance was performed by the Eagle Spirit Dancers from the Wind River Indian Reservation.

George Abeyta, UW graduate and great-great-grandson of Chief Washakie, said, “Chief Washakie represents wisdom, courage, mobility, valor, peace and prosperity. To me, the example set by my great-great-grandfather has been a great inspiration and a beacon of light.”

In “Battle of Two Hearts,” McGary captures the moment Shoshone Chief Washakie first raised his lance to challenge Crow Chief Big Robber to begin the Battle of Crowheart Butte, a fight over traditional Shoshone hunting grounds. After nearly a week of combat between the tribes with no resolution and many lost warriors, Washakie challenged Big Robber to a duel, promising that when he beat his formidable opponent, he would cut out his heart. Washakie emerged the winner, with Big Robber’s heart on the end of his lance.

In the towering bronze, the chief is crafted as the warrior he was — fearless and determined. Dominating Washakie’s arsenal is the eight-foot lance painted blue and adorned with seven eagle feathers. An extraordinary horseman, Washakie used only a light saddle made of buckskin stuffed with horsehair to cushion his ride on the great Appaloosa.

Had it not been for his horse, a gift from the Nez Perce Chief Joseph, Chief Washakie said he may not have defeated his worthy Crow opponent in the legendary duel. The sculptural model for Washakie’s horse is world champion stallion Tom Tucker, of Laramie, who, like Washakie’s horse, is a descendant of the famous Nez Perce war horses.

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