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UPDATE: Damaged Chief Kno-Tah Sculpture Required Removal Due to Deteriorating Wood, Public Safety Risks
Shute Park, Chief Kno-Tah history to be honored with future public art installation
After months of careful evaluation, including expert recommendations from arborists and conservationists, the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department removed the damaged Chief Kno-Tah sculpture located in Shute Park in order to mitigate public safety risks.
An arborist assessment by Northwest Tree Specialists determined the hollow wooden sculpture was decaying internally and infested with carpenter ants, even prior to the winter storm that damaged the art piece.
- Arborist assessment from Northwest Tree Specialists
- Cost estimate from Cascadia Art Conservation Center for sculpture rehabilitation
- Cost estimate from Ness-Campbell Crane for sculpture removal
A falling tree landed directly on top of the sculpture during the February storm, knocking it off its base and dislodging a large chunk of rotten wood. Park patrons were protected by fencing in the four months following the storm, as the combination of storm damage and extensive interior rot compromised the Douglas fir log sculpture’s structural integrity.
“Public safety is our top priority,” said Dave Miletich, Director of the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department. “As much as we hoped the statue could be restored, it simply poses too much of a safety risk.”
Employees from the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department currently decommissioned and disposed of the statue in June.
“Because of the great care taken to maintain it, the Chief Kno-Tah sculpture has had a long life,” said Valerie Otani, Public Art Program Supervisor. “But something made out of Douglas fir – sitting outside for 30 years – has a life expectancy.”
Confederated Tribes: “An inaccurate representation of our ancestors”
Installed in Shute Park in 1987, the sculpture was the creation of Hungarian-born artist Peter “Wolf” Toth as part of his Whispering Giant series featuring interpreted carvings of Native American faces. During the evaluation process, the City of Hillsboro consulted The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon for input on the Chief Kno-Tah sculpture’s cultural significance.
The Tribes’ Cultural Resources Department Manager, David Harrelson, described the Chief Kno-Tah carving as “an inaccurate representation of our ancestors.”
“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,” Harrelson said. “The Shute Park carving does not look like our ancestors or represent our artistic traditions.”
The Tribes noted that they would welcome the opportunity to work with the City to provide historically accurate and culturally-appropriate representations of Hillsboro’s indigenous people.
Hillsboro’s Public Art Program has a goal of creating memorable landmarks that are part of the visual map of Hillsboro. Over the past 30 years, community members embraced the Chief Kno-Tah landmark, and the City honored that connection with an event on June 10.
In celebrating the sculpture’s history and the many memories created, the City hosted a drop-in opportunity for residents to share their stories and take pictures with the statue before it was removed.
Following the damaged sculpture’s removal, the City will work to develop and install an information panel in Shute Park to share the history of Chief Kno-Tah and the park.
“Once again, we want to thank the countless community members who support our parks and our Public Art Program, and we want to express our gratitude to The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde for sharing their perspective on the sculpture,” Miletich said. “We look forward to engaging with the Confederated Tribes to bring culturally relevant art to Hillsboro in the future.”