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Sculptor Heather Tritchka stands by the Winona statue.
Kaylee McGhee | Col­legian

Dozens of com­munity members attended a cer­emony to honor the her­itage of Winona, the daughter of Potawatomi chief Baw Beese, whose statue was revealed in Mrs. Stock’s Park on Friday.

The Her­itage Asso­ci­ation orga­nized the statue’s reveal, and Hillsdale College faculty members, donors who con­tributed to the Winona project, and city and state offi­cials all came to support the com­munity effort. The cer­emony honored the ded­i­cation sculptor Heather Tritchka ’98 had poured into the project as well as the her­itage the statue rep­re­sents.

“History is tan­gible here,” said Pro­fessor of History Brad Birzer, who spoke at the event. “Winona is not just a spirit anymore — she has a body. We’re hon­oring this very inter­esting and mixed person. Even though we don’t know a lot about her, whoever she is — she is immor­talized here.”

Winona, remem­bered as the princess of Hillsdale, is said to have suf­fered an abusive mar­riage at the hands of her alco­holic husband, who her father forced her to marry. She plunged a knife into her husband’s heart after he returned home from selling her beloved white pony — given as a gift from Chief Baw Beese — in a drunken stupor and began beating her. Because of her tribe’s deep-rooted tra­di­tions, her father was forced to sen­tence Winona to death.

The Winona statue, which Tritchka said became a com­munity project.
Kaylee McGhee | Col­legian

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, said the Winona statue is a reminder that the com­munity has an oppor­tunity to make “pos­itive history” that will inspire growth for decades to come.

“Right now, we have a chance to make history, through history, and carry it on to the future,” he said.

The Winona statue is a tes­tament of what a com­munity can do when it comes together, City Manager David Mackie said.

“This cer­emony is the cul­mi­nation of the ded­i­cation of many people,” he said. “It reminds me of what a com­munity truly is — indi­viduals working together to create ordinary and extra­or­dinary things.”

The Winona statue was Tritchka’s project for the past 15 months. What began as her idea became a com­munity project, she said.

“There was this feeling of col­lab­o­ration — a com­munity spirit to accom­plish a goal,” Tritchka said. “It was an unex­pected sur­prise.”

Tritchka, who also sculpted Hillsdale College’s Winston Churchill statue, formed the Her­itage Asso­ci­ation in 2016 as a result of the over­whelming support from the com­munity for the project, she said. The organization’s mission is to pre­serve and promote Hillsdale’s her­itage, and it has grown to include a youth council — another unex­pected sur­prise, said Connie Sexton, a Her­itage Asso­ci­ation member.

The Her­itage Asso­ci­ation rec­og­nized members of the youth council during the cer­emony for their involvement in pre­serving local history. The youth council helped Tritchka and Sexton fundraise for the Winona statue.

“We wanted to get the younger gen­er­ation involved with com­munity service and teach them lead­ership skills,” Sexton said. “They have gone above and beyond.”

Tritchka and U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Hillsdale, stand by the Winona statue.
Kaylee McGhee | Col­legian

The Winona statue is just the beginning, however. Tritchka said the Her­itage Association’s next project will be a bronze statue of Hillsdale’s indigenous animals. The youth council began fundraising for the black bear project a few months ago, and Tritchka said she hopes to com­plete it by fall of 2018.

Even­tually, Tritchka said she hopes to create a life-size bronze statue of Chief Baw Beese.

Mackie said the city will con­tinue to support the Her­itage Association’s efforts of bringing Hillsdale’s history to life.

“It’s things like this that make Hillsdale a great place to live, work, and call home,” he said.

  • Just a quick cor­rection: Rep. Walberg is from Tipton, not Hillsdale.

  • Julie Dye

    The artist is tal­ented but did she consult with someone other than the her­itage asso­ci­ation when she designed this? Like maybe real Indigenous folks from the area? This figure’s face resembles a white woman, and Potawatomi women didn’t wear skin-revealing clothing like in Disney’s Poc­a­hontas cartoon movie.