Wichita honors Native Americans with its Keeper of the Plains sculpture along the city’s riverfront.
The Keeper, as it’s locally known, stands at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers. The 44-foot tall sculpture of a Native American holding a peace pipe has stood above the rivers since 1974. It was a gift to the city by Native artist Blackbear Bosin as part of the United States’ bicentennial in 1976.
The Keeper’s home has undergone some renovations over the years. He was raised more than 30 feet higher to have a bolder presence. The area around the base of the sculpture includes native grasses, such as prairie grass, sage, yucca and cactus.
The Keeper has two walls of exhibits and information regarding the history of tribes that once lived in the area. The information is well done and presented in a respectful manner.
The sculpture can be accessed via two pedestrian bridges (from each of the rivers). The cable-stay bridges are designed to resemble bow and arrows. There is no admission fee.
The visit to the Keeper was our second in the past couple of years. We had stopped to see the sculpture as we were driving back home from a trip to Oklahoma City.
This time, though, we were able to take in the nightly illumination. Fire pits at the base of the Keeper are lit at 7 p.m. (fall/winter) and 9 p.m. (spring/summer). There were about a dozen people visiting the site during our viewing.
The Keeper is located near the Mid-America All-Indian Center. The center focuses on the history and culture of Native Americans.
The nightly fire show has played a role in the development of the riverfront. The city invested $20 million in 2007 for an eight-year project to restore and beautify the riverfront.
We enjoyed a walk along the river during our first visit. We took in an area that had several military monuments and memorials.
A short walk from the Keeper is the Exploration Place – a science center and museum. We thought it was mainly for kids, but we had quite a few people suggest visiting it. Perhaps, on our next visit.
In addition to the Keeper, the area includes several museums within walking distance – Wichita Art Museum, Old Cowtown and the Botanica: Wichita Gardens.