May 19, 2005

A question about I-90.

Somewhere along I-90 -- either in New York, Pennsylvania, or Ohio -- there's a colossal statue of an Indian -- a stereotypical character in a loincloth and a feathered headdress -- with his arm raised in what for all the world looks like a Nazi salute. Anyone have any information on that thing? It's in miserable taste for at least three reasons. Is there a positive side to it that I'm missing?

UPDATE: A reader sends this link. Apparently, these statues are everywhere. Maybe I saw the "Silver Creek Indian." If so, I was wrong about the loincloth. He's wearing pants. And that Nazi salute is supposed to be the "how" salute. Really? With the palm completely down and the arm fully outstretched? That's not how I remember it from old TV shows. Is the "how" salute considered respectful to Indian traditions? The linked website says:
The Silver Creek Indian was originally at the Iroquois Brewery in Buffalo, NY where he held bottle of beer in his outstretched hand. In the late 1950s, he was sold and moved to the Seneca Pottery and Gift Shop in East Avon, NY. His owners had the hand and bottle cut off and replaced with a saluting hand. When that business closed in 1998, the giant Indian was sold for $18,250 and moved to the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation where he salutes passing cars on I-90.

I guess my interpretation of what's offensive and what isn't should be affected by the fact that the statue is actually on an Indian reservation. And my reading of the hand gesture ought to be affected by knowing the character originally held a bottle of beer.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another reader suggests the Indian is part of the Muffler Man tradition. I'd thought of that, but believed the mark of the Muffler Man tradition was that the arms were in a position arranged for holding a muffler. But I guess they could redo the arm. Certainly, the basic Muffler Man statue gives you a big head start.


bos0x said...

Way to narrow it down there. I'll be sure to take a drive down I-90-through NEW YORK, PENNSYLVANIA, AND OHIO-just to see if I can figure that out for you.

Ann Althouse said...

Thousands drive past it every day. It's immense. I'm sure someone's written about it somewhere. Anyway, just going and looking at it would not enable you to answer my question! I already looked at it.

Anonymous said...

Never seen, never heard of it, but GOOGLE knows everything.

For a picture and not-quite-enough info to get the whole story Link to:


Apparently it was orginally owned by the Iroquois Brewery outside Buffalo and was purchased in 1999 by an Indian reservation where it currently resides.

TWM said...

I am really surprised that the PC crowd has not demanded they all be destroyed.

Seriously, it is amazing that they still exist at all.

bos0x said...

Yes, wandering, because requesting that an ethnically offensive statue be taken down has everything to do with being politically correct and nothing to do with having respect for people.

John Left said...

Ann, I enjoy your blog. Your world view is informative, humorous and unique. I'll be a regular reader.

If you have a spare moment, check out my blog, "John Left's Field".

Take care and keep blogging! My best wishes to America's Dairyland.

bonnp said...

Same story, different link. But check out the rest of this site. WLRA stands for World's Largest Roadside Attractions, including the now-demised Badger from Birnamwood.

Indian statueNew Home for Indian Statue
July 21, 1998

Avon, New York's landmark Indian statue was auctioned off on July 18, 1998 to a new owner and will be moving to the Cattaragus Indian

Reservation, located south of Buffalo, New York. The new owner, Cyrus Schindler, is a native Seneca Indian and owner of the Big Indian Smoke Shop. The bidding for the Native American Indian statue stopped at Mr. Schindler's bid of $18,250. The 27-foot-tall, 800 pound statue, which has been located at its current site in Avon for the last 30 years, was originally purchased from the former Iroquois Brewery near Buffalo, New York, at a cost of $250.

Photo by Alicia Joy. Story reported by Barry Joy, Rochester, New York.

Sigivald said...

Bosox: Ah, but is it really ethnically offensive?

Have the Indians in the area been polled and asked if they're offended?

(Last I remember, nationwide polls found that the Indian population was much less offended by things than people seemd to think they should be, such as the Redskins, or being called "Indian" - heck, even hardcore Indian-identity people don't like "Native American" for "Indian".)

Maybe people assume it's a PC issue because the Indians aren't offended?

(I'm not even sure what they're supposed to be offended about. He may be stereotypical, but it doesn't look like a negative stereotype. And non-negative stereotypes (I prefer "icons", myself, as a much less loaded term) of white people don't offend me. I fail to see why a neutral, iconic presentation of an Indian should offend an Indian.

Now, I can see why there might be some offense if he was still holding the beer. That is at least comprehensible, as it comes closer to a negative stereotype/icon.)

Ann Althouse said...

Sigivald: I should think they ought to mind the appearance of a Nazi salute.

TWM said...

What ethnic group does it offend? American Indians or the liberals who claim to speak for them.

I read recently that the NCAA and The American Indian Movement are trying to shame the Florida State Seminoles into changing their name. This despite the fact that the real Seminoles gave the school permission to use the name and actually enjoy having the school associated with their tribe.

"I have a problem with other native groups from around the country telling the Seminoles of Florida what is right or wrong for us," said Louise Gopher, education director for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Nazi (looking) salute aside, all American Indians are not offended by the respectful use of their names or symbols or traditions.

Let's not pretend they are and let's not pretend to speak for them all.

bos0x said...

Let's also refrain from assuming that all "Indians" are not offended by some of the representations of them that are out there: the one's holding beer for example.

Really, who's to decide whether these people ARE NOT offended by these representations: them or the conservatives who apparently also claim to speak for them now?

Unknown said...

Sigivald: I should think they ought to mind the appearance of a Nazi salute.

No, what they should mind is the fact that Nazi's have ruined a perfectly good salute, for some.

Seriously though, Ann, it really is generic enough of a gesture that if you hadn't told me it was a Nazi salute it wouldn't have occurred to me---mainly because it is an image of an Indian (er, excuse me, Native American), and not a Nazi!

Heck, I've seen cops that use that gesture to get you to stop when they're controlling traffic at an intersection. I've never rolled down my window and screamed "Nazi", and I don't suggest anyone else does either :)

Unknown said...

bos0x, that's not the point. Obviously there are words, acts, images that many Native Americans would be offended by. But when a given tribe gives their blessing to a sports team or college to use them as a mascot, who is anyone to tell them they should be offended?

I think virtually anyone would agree that if the majority of a given population were offended by a given term or image intended to denote or represent them, that considerate persons would refrain from using such.

The key is of course to ask them and not some political group that just claims to have their best interest at heart.

joe said...

Ann, thought you might be interested in this bit of American history. The "Nazi" salute was actually borrowed from American socialists who used it for the pledge of allegiance. Check out this site to see pictures and this weird story.

Pancho said...

Native Americans, enriched thru casino gambling in many areas, can now muster the clout to speak for themselves when slighted. But what about that poor downtrodden group that has no real say in our society.....The Muffler Men! Who will stand up for them!

Mom said...

I don't know if they're offensive or not, but they really are all over the place. In Maine alone, there are two -- one in Skowhegan, and another in Freeport. The second one is referred to locally as the BFI (which stands, of course, for Big Freeport Indian.)

TWM said...

"I have a problem with other native groups from around the country telling the Seminoles of Florida what is right or wrong for us," said Louise Gopher, education director for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Seems to me they are speaking for themselves.

The problem with liberals in a case like this, and in most cases actually, is that they pick a select "sub-group" of a ethnic minority who claim they speak for the whole minority and they tout them as the only true voice.

The fiction that the indigenous tribes in ANWR oppose the oil drilling there is another such example.

The fact is the local ANWR tribe wants the drilling for jobs. It is another tribe that lives hundreds of miles away that that does not, and they only oppose it because they are so far away they cannot benefit from it.

Check out the link on one of my posts to hear the whole story:


As a conservative-leaning Independent, I don't claim to speak for anyone but myself. I am willing, however, to allow others to speak for themselves.

Oh yes, I find the fact that the Nazis got their salute from American Socialists very interesting indeed. Then again they were National Socialists, so it makes sense.

Unknown said...

I remember the Indian standing at the intersection in Avon NY and as a small kid growing up it was a big (NPI) deal driving by it. I was 30 years old when It was sold and i was bummed out knowing it would not be there for my family to see as we drove for Avon's famous root beer float. Anyways never once did we think negative thoughts toward native american's. I thought it was a cool landmark. Now i get to see it off the side of the interstate I-90 when my family goes on road trip's. Never once did i think of Nazis most people know thats a polite symbol of hello or peace. Stop this PC bull crap. I cant believe you see a Nazi party salute and from your misguided twisted mind wish it to be removed. The funny thing here is that a business person on a Indian reservation owns it and proudly uses it as promotion. Use your time on a hobby and stop crusading around for something or people who obviously dont need you. Love the Indian and hope its up for my grand kids to see..