Okay, so you probably know that Wichita has this Giant Statue called the Keeper of the Plains. That’s cool. You probably also know that it was created by sculptor Blackbear Boisin. I get that. But there are a lot of things about the Keeper and its history that you may not know.
For example, Bosin was an internationally-recognized artist, muralist and designer, and some of his work has been on display in Washington D.C. The Keeper of the Plains is one of his most notable works. The sculpture is 44 feet tall, made of steel, and weighs five tons. It was donated to the city of Wichita by Kiowa-Comanche artist Blackbear Bosin in 1974, and was installed to commemorate the United States Bicentennial.
The Keeper Stands on Sacred Land
The 30 foot tall rock promontory on which the Keeper now rests was added in 2006, 32 years after the sculpture’s initial installation. Though the Keeper gestures towards the sky, this is not a reference to crazy Kansas weather (though we see how you might get that impression.) Instead, the Keeper’s position, with hands raised to the sky, is one of supplication to the Great Spirit, a deity recognized by Native Americans.
The Keeper has become a symbol for the City of Wichita over the years. By no coincidence, the statue stands in the Keeper of the Plains Plaza at the confluence of the big and little Arkansas rivers. The Keeper of the Plains’s location is sacred, the place where the Wichita Indians settled after fleeing their Texas and Oklahoma homes as a result of European arrival and population pressures. To this day, many Native American tribes continue to gather at this site.
Lots to Learn
The Keeper of the Plains Plaza that surrounds the sculpture at its base allows visitors to learn about all aspects of life for the Plains Indians, through pictures, statues, replicas, plaques and inscriptions.
Special sections are dedicated to warriors, women, the buffalo, the way of the horse and more.
An audio presentation on the Keeper of the Plains is also available at the push of a button.
Completing a Sacred Hoop
Each night, the Keeper of the Plains is briefly illuminated by the Ring of Fire. This is when fire drums that surround the plaza at the Keeper’s base are lit for 15 minutes each night. The Ring of Fire hours change seasonally, burning from 9-9:15 p.m. in the summer and from 7-7:15 p.m. during the fall and winter.
Though many are familiar with the Keeper’s Ring of Fire, few people know that this, too, is symbolic. A statute and inscription in the Keeper of the Plains Plaza explains the idea of a sacred hoop idealized by the Native Americans. This hoop is comprised of four quadrants, each representing one of the four elements: Earth, air, fire and water. With the Keeper’s being placed outdoors, along the river and on a rock promontory, the Ring of Fire allows the Keeper of the plains plaza to embody all of the elements. Pretty cool, huh?
Reflecting Aspects of Native American Life
Have you ever noticed the interesting design choices made for the two pedestrian bridges over the rivers on either side of the Keeper? The bridges are designed to reflect the concept of a bow and arrow, a tool commonly used in Native American life. Many subtle references to Native American culture round out the Keeper of the Plains experience.
Even the flora highlighted in the plaza serves a purpose. Guests will notice plants like sage, bottlebrush, yuccas, medicinal herbs and prairie grasses in the plaza, each of which offer a subtle no to the environment that was home to the Plains Indians.