Local leaders discuss options for Hiawatha statue

La Crosse city officials met with representatives from the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin to talk about the future of the Hiawatha statue. The debate over the sculpture and its significance to the area has been recently renewed, as some called for its removal.

According to the mayor’s office, the representatives met behind closed doors at City Hall in order to have an honest conversation about the issue.

“I do think it’s important for folks on all sides to hear from each other to understand why this creates such passion and such emotion,” said La Crosse City Mayor Tim Kabat.

La Crosse Common Council Member Gary Padesky, representative for District 7, said that while there were disagreements and agreements on certain issues, the conversation was meant to be informative.

“There was no yelling at each other. There was no disrespecting each other’s opinion. It was just very well thought out conversation,” Padesky said.

One agreement was established during the meeting: The statue is a work of art and shouldn’t be destroyed.

“We talked about, ‘Could it be relocated? Could it be part of maybe a future historical and cultural museum?'” Kabat said.

Steve Kiedrowski, who is a family friend of the statue’s artist, would like to see it stay where it is. He thinks adding the history of the statue to its current location would put its significance in perspective.

“There was an electronic box set that was next to it. And you hit the button and it would tell you a little history about the statue and who made it, Anthony Zimmerhakl. That’s long gone,” Kiedrowski said.

Leaders from the Ho-Chuck Nation of Wisconsin said they would like to come to the table as a supporting partner no matter what the final decision is.

“If there’s any type of cultural perspective, any type of Ho-Chunk Nation perspective that they would like to discuss, we’re here. We’re available,” said Kristin White Eagle, District 2 representative for Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin.

Those at the discussion agreed to meet again in the near future. A date and time for that meeting has not yet been set.