Giant American Indian statue finds new Virginia location

Richmond, Virginia (AP) November 2010
A 2,400-pound fiberglass-and-resin sculpture of an American Indian that resided at the top of Richmond’s minor-league baseball stadium for more than two decades has found a new home and a new role.

“Connecticut” now rests atop the southeast corner of Odell Associates, a downtown architectural firm housed in the historic Lucky Strike Building near the James River.

An unveiling ceremony this weekend will feature remarks by Don Chapman, a member of the Mohegan tribe of the state of Connecticut and President Barack Obama’s senior adviser on Native American affairs. Tribal drummers also will appear at the event.

The dedication is aimed at bringing together the history of Virginia Indian tribes and the English settlement at the stretch of tidal water where Richmond began, as well as kicking off Native American History Month.

“I realized we could have the opportunity to turn a mascot into a landmark if we did this right,” Odell Associates chief executive James Snyder told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The sculpture originally was created more than 30 years ago to honor American Indians. It first was placed in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, then moved to a Best Products Co. retail store. It then represented the Class AAA Richmond Braves at The Diamond for 25 years, until the parent team moved the Braves to the Atlanta suburbs.

Some Virginia tribe leaders had regarded the placement at the stadium uneasily.

“The Native American chiefs told me, ‘Yes, we like it, but we don’t like it at The Diamond,”’ sculptor Paul DiPasquale said. “‘It looks good there, but it’s not who we are.”’

But the perception has shifted with the decision to place the sculpture in a location of historic meaning to native tribes, whose ancestors saw English explorer John Smith sail up the river they called Yeokanta more than 400 years ago from the same area.