Grim End to Stolen Statue of Famed Native American

Statue of ballerina Marjorie Tallchief appears to have been cut down, sold for scrap for $266
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2022 1:10 PM CDT
Native American Statue Was Stolen, Scrapped for $266
The base where the Marjorie Tallchief sculpture once stood is seen outside the Tulsa Historical Society in Tulsa, Okla., on Monday.   (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP)

A bronze statue of Native American ballerina Marjorie Tallchief, stolen last week from the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, appears to have been cut into pieces and sold as scrap metal. Pieces of the statue—one of five outdoor statues depicting famous Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma known as the Five Moons—were found Monday at CMC Recycling near Catoosa, where they were reportedly turned in for all of $266, per KTUL and the AP. Michelle Place, director of the historical society and museum, confirmed the pieces came from the torso, tutu, and legs of the statue representing Tallchief, who grew up on the Osage Nation reservation before gaining international fame in the 20th century. She died in November at age 95.

As the head and arms are still missing, it's thought those pieces might have been taken to a second recycling center, per the New York Times. "I am devastated by this," Place tells the AP, noting the mold for the statue burned in a foundry fire. Sculptor Gary Henson has vowed to resurrect the statue nonetheless, Place tells the Times. She adds the Tulsa Police Department is pursuing "really good leads" on the thieves, who are believed to have cut down the statue on Thursday or Friday. It may have been targeted as it was the last in a row of statues of the Five Moons—including Myra Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin, and Tallchief's older sister, Maria Tallchief—and close by a tree that might have hid the thieves from view.

All five statues were valued at $120,000 in total when installed in 2007. "I'm just guessing they had no idea of the significance of these bronze statues," Place says. They are "a point of pride" and the fact "that someone would steal one and destroy it to sell for scrap metal is a disgrace," Mayor GT Bynum says. The historical society is now hoping to raise $10,000 to take care of the statue's insurance deductible, as well as $5,000 to install security cameras nearby. A mural featuring all five ballerinas by Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen, called Flight of Spirit, remains hanging in the rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol. (More statue stories.)

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