Tri States Public Radio Staff
Fri October 18, 2013
Re-Dedication of Statue Honoring Keokuk
People from across the Midwest traveled to Keokuk to help the city celebrate its namesake.
Chief Keokuk was remembered as a leader during a time of tense relations between Native Americans and white settlers.
A statue honoring him was placed in Rand Park in 1913. It looks out over the Mississippi River.
The statue, which was crafted by Nellie Walker, was re-dedicated this month to mark its 100th anniversary.
Among the attendees was Tawnya Jones, a Keokuk native who now lives in Chillicothe, MO.
She says whenever she comes home, she stops and visits the statue.
“I sit here and I just kind of take it all in,” says Jones. “It is the most amazing memorial anyone can have. I can’t imagine a better place to be than looking over the river.”
Each stop holds a little more significance for Jones as she is a descendant of Chief Keokuk.
She was one of about 40 to attend the re-dedication.
“I am in awe,” says Jones. “It is so humbling to be here, to be part of such a wonderful presentation for such an awe-inspiring man.”
The ceremony began with a blessing from Shanta Ista – Rising Sun of Fairfield, who is regularly called upon to conduct ceremonies like this.
Rising Sun says he started preparing for this event about one month ago.
“I have been doing prayers and songs, sit there every night and do a little bid,” says Rising Sun. “Prepare for the family, saying prayers for them and asking for blessings.”
Tawnya Jones says her connection to Chief Keokuk has led her to explore his life and history.
Keokuk was born in 1788 and eventually led the local Sauk tribe before his death in 1848.
He was known for his political aptitude, which Jones says led some to question his motives for working with the United States during the time of western expansion.
“He made choices based on what he thought was best for his people,” says Jones. “Not always was it what others agreed with or liked and he might not have been very popular in some cases, but he did what he thought was best for his people.”
The re-dedication was a day-long event that felt like a mix of a family reunion, a summer festival and a memorial service.