One of the most well known historical landmarks in Oregon is The Eternal Indian more commonly known as Black Hawk. The statue, in honor of Chief Black Hawk, was planned by Lorado Taft and several of his students and associates at the Eagles Nest Art Colony. Work on the statue began in 1908 and the dedication of Black Hawk statue took place in 1911.
Chief Black Hawk was best known for the 1832 war that bears his name. The Black Hawk War was the last Indian war fought east of the Mississippi River. The Indians’ defeat ended 200 years of armed resistance to American encroachment on Indian lands. President Andrew Jackson brought Black Hawk east in 1833 where he attracted great crowds. Just before he died in 1837, He said, “Rock River was beautiful Country. I loved my towns, my cornfields, and the home of my people. It is yours now. Keep it as we did.” The dedication of the Black Hawk Statue took place in 1911.
Taft first created smaller models of what would later become the actual statue. The statue, standing 125 feet above the Rock River, accounts for only 48 feet of that height. Black Hawk weighs 536,770 pounds and is said to be the second largest concrete monolithic statue in the world. From a distance one notices the folded arms and penetrating stare across the river. Close up one notices the blanket which covers Black Hawk.
An original model of the statue is now on permanent display at the art museum of the Discovery Center in Rockford, Illinois. Another model is located at the Oregon Public Library in Oregon, Illinois.
100 years later, the statue is in desperate need of repairs. During one 1950s major restoration, landscaping and lights were added. Some minor patch-and-fill work was done in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but moisture seep in and major cracks developed. It has been estimated $350,000 is needed to restore Black Hawk. A not-for-profit 501(c)(3) fund has been established and contributions may be sent to: Friends of the Black Hawk Statue Fund, P.O. 537, Sterling, IL 61081.