The Keeper of the Plains

The Keeper of the Plains

, it has become a symbol for the city and a tribute to the Native American tribes who continue to gather at this sacred headland.

Restoration

The Keeper served as the focal point of an eight-year, $20 million restoration and river beautification project completed in May of 2007.

The Council of Elders, Mid-America All-Indian Center, city planners, architects, artist consultants, artists and fabricators collaborated to ensure the Keeper’s creator, Kiowa-Comanche artist Blackbear Bosin, would have approved and been proud of the enhancements.

The 44-foot Cor-Ten steel sculpture now stands elevated on a 30-foot rock promontory surrounded by four quadrants representing the elements of water, fire, air and earth. Pedestrians can directly access the area from two new, bow-and-arrow-inspired cable-stay bridges that span both the Little and Big Arkansas rivers. Fire drums located on boulders at the foot of the Keeper dramatically light the night. A mist rises up from a pause point that leads down to the water’s edge. Plantings of sage, bottlebrush, medicinal herbs, prairie grasses, yuccas and cactus further create a sense of place and time.

Serpentine walkways let you wander throughout the space. The sounds of Native American drumming, rattling and chants echo in a large flagstone plaza ringed by hand-chipped limestone walls and boulders. Along the massive walls, environmental graphics help tell the story of the nomadic Plains Indians: their lives, beliefs and practices. Photographs laser-etched into granite personalize the exhibit with the noble visages of the men and women who made history here. Metalwork and limestone sculptures showcase everything from workday tools and weapons to lodging and ornamentation. Eagles, bison, horses and turtles – all significant to the culture – figure prominently. A map shows almost 30 tribes from the Dakotas down to Texas who were drawn to the rivers’ confluence for powwows and trading: Apache, Kansa, Ponca, Omaha, Osage, Pawnee, Wichita and more.

The Keeper of the Plains was rededicated during a powwow held May 19-20, 2007. The area is free and open to the public year-round.

Project contributors:
*Architects- HNTB and Law Kingdon (cable-stay bridges and site design)
*Branding Agency- Greteman Group (environmental graphic design)
*Artist Consultant- Chris Brunner and artists Todd Whipple and Tom Schrauth (environment graphic creation, stone work, benches, bike racks, trash receptacles)
*Signage- TriMark Signworks
*Granite panels- Eck Monument
*Troll Sculpture Artist- Connie Ernatt (This whimsical feature is considered discovery art. Look along the east riverbank and in one of the big storm drains you’ll find a 7-foot-tall troll chained to a grate, straining to break free. Both children and adults love this creepy addition.)

Cultural references

"The Keeper of the Plains" was mentioned by Christian musician Rich Mullins in his 1991 song "Calling Out Your Name" (from the album "The World as Best as I Remember It, Volume One")

A profile image of this statue comprises the motif adopted by the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, a U.S. Air Force flying unit which is based at nearby McConnell Air Force Base. From 1993 through 2004, an image of the statue, along with the words "Keeper of the Plains," appeared on the tails of Boeing KC-135 air refueling tankers assigned to the 22nd ARW.

External links

* [http://www.kshs.org/portraits/bosin_blackbear.htm Kansas State Historical Society]
* [http://www.theindiancenter.org/Museum/Artists/BlackbearBosin.htm Mid-America All-Indian Center]
* [http://www.wichita.gov/CityOffices/Park/PublicArt/public_art3.htm The City of Wichita]
* [http://kansastravel.org/keeperoftheplains.htm Keeper of the Plains photos & hours]


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