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West Akron chief's feathers plucked for storage

By admin Published: October 10, 2011

West Akron's chief has been scalped.

Workers removed the solid oak feathers that adorned the head of the old Indian chief statute in front of Resnik elementary school Monday morning. They used a crane to lift the feather section of ''Chief Rotaynah'' and laid it onto a flatbed truck so it could be taken into storage before another Ohio winter sets in.

''It's down,'' said Kenneth Phares, Akron Public Schools' director of facilities services.

Last October, the district fenced off the statue and warned residents not to get too close, out of fear the feathers might topple if the soft wood connecting them to the chief's head gave way.

School officials were right to be worried. When the workers cut the feathers away, they found that a piece of wood no bigger than the heal on the sole of a shoe was keeping the feathers on top of the chief's head and that two squirrels had nests inside, Phares said.

The feathers are 16 feet tall and weigh 3,000 pounds, he said.

Florida-based artist Peter Wolf Toth carved the 36-foot tall statue in 1985. The district has worked with Toth over the years to patch Rotaynah and stabilize it, but officials want to safely stow the feathers piece while they decide whether the rest of the statue can be saved.

Toth has suggested he would be willing to carve another statue if a suitable chunk of wood could be found.

He has carved similar heads honoring native peoples in every state of the union over almost four decades a series he calls the Trail of the Whispering Giants that includes works in Canada and Europe.

District officials are hoping a local group will help raise funds for a new statue. The West Akron Kiwanis helped raise funds for Rotaynah.

Toth would like to have Sequoia wood shipped from the West Coast. Anyone interested in helping can call Phares at 330-761-2643.

For now, the chief will stand without his feathers. Workers filled the statue with foam, redid the top and waterproofed and stained it. Phares said people will be ''hard pressed'' to notice the redone section of the statue.

Beacon Journal staff writer Stephanie Warsmith contributed to this report. John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.

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