SKOWHEGAN — The Skowhegan Indian sculpture could be removed if the local chamber of commerce that owns it cannot find a new owner for the local landmark.

Orange cones and caution tape discourage people March 5 from getting close to the Skowhegan Indian, a 62-foot-tall wooden statue at 65 Madison Ave. in Skowhegan. The statue by artist Bernard Langlais sits on a 20-foot base and weighs about 24,000 pounds. It depicts a Wabanaki fisherman holding a spear in his left hand and a weir, or fish trap, in his right hand. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

After the 62-foot-tall, 24,000-pound wooden sculpture of a Native American fisherman suffered damage to its face, left arm and other parts in recent months, chamber leaders said they were exploring a plan to fix it.

In a letter sent earlier this month to the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen, the Skowhegan Regional Chamber of Commerce offered to transfer ownership of the nearly 60-year-old sculpture to the town. The offer includes the parcel of land on which the Indian statue stands, which is owned by the Hight family.

“After many thoughtful discussions within our organization, and with additional community stakeholders, we have decided that this iconic wooden sculpture is outside of our purview,” the letter reads. “We do not believe that the responsibilities of owning and maintaining public art falls into our scope of priorities at this time.”

If the town rejects the offer, the chamber will open the offer to the public for 90 days, according to the letter.

If the chamber receives no offers, it will remove the sculpture “in the interest of public safety.”


Selectmen discussed the offer Tuesday night, but concluded they need more information before moving forward.

Some selectmen, including Chairman Todd Smith and Vice Chairman Charles Robbins, said town residents should ultimately vote on the matter at the town meeting.

“I don’t want to make a decision on behalf of the town as to what we do with that,” Smith said. “I think the citizens of the town should do it.”

Taking on the required maintenance of the aging sculpture would require a significant amount of money, selectmen said.

The last major restoration of the sculpture in 2014, a multiyear effort led by local builder Stephen Dionne, cost about $65,000.

Garrett Quinn, a member of the chamber’s board of directors who attended the meeting Tuesday night, said he would estimate the cost of repairs this time around to be in the six figures.


Rotting wood, worsened by Maine’s harsh climate, accounts for most of the damage. Town officials and chamber leaders have said they expect the sculpture’s condition to deteriorate further over time.

“The wood is a temporary fix, no matter what,” Selectman Harold Bigelow said Tuesday. “That’s why the Eiffel Tower is still standing: It’s not made out of wood.”

Some pieces of wood blew off during strong winds in February, prompting the town to cordon off the area with orange cones and caution tape, which have since been removed.

Commissioned by the Skowhegan Tourist Hospitality Association in 1966, the Indian was completed in 1969 by artist Bernard Langlais, a student and teacher at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, according to the chamber’s website.

Some consider the sculpture, which stands on a 20-foot base, to be the largest of its kind in the world, according to the chamber’s website. The sculpture depicts a Wabanaki fisherman holding a spear in his left hand and a weir, or fish trap, in his right hand.

Langlais’ estate gave more than 20 of his sculptures, many of which are wooden, to the nonprofit Main Street Skowhegan in 2013. They have been placed around town.


Asked if Main Street Skowhegan could acquire the Indian, Quinn said Tuesday the organization has told the chamber it is not interested.

The chamber is looking for other potential owners to preserve the Indian statue, if the town rejects the organization’s offer, Quinn said.

“We are pursuing different foundations — different art foundations, people, clubs and foundations that specialize in this — because it’s an important part of the Langlais Trail that runs through the state of Maine,” Quinn said. “Believe it or not, it does bring people whose life dream it is to follow the Langlais Trail. I know we take it for granted because we see it every day.”

The Langlais Art Trail maps the location of the sculptor’s work in dozens of locations across Maine, including art museums, municipal offices, libraries and schools.

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