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Indigenous News

A statue of Marjorie Tallchief was stolen and sold for scrap. Now, Tulsa Historical Society is raising money to replace it

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Tulsa Historical Society
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The statue of Marjorie Tallchief outside the Tulsa Historical Society, before it was cut down and stolen.

Tulsa Police are looking for the person who cut down the statue of Marjorie Tallchief and sold it for scrap metal at a local recycling center.

Officials from the Tulsa Historical Society say they have some leads on suspects because of alert employees at the Catoosa recycling facility.

The statue of Tallchief was part of a garden display honoring the famous Native American ballerinas who were commonly called the Five Moons. These bronze depictions of Oklahoma's renowned Indigenous ballerinas including Tallchief, her sister Maria Tallchief. Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower and Moscelyne Larkin.

Word spread late last week that the Marjorie Tallchief piece was missing from the gardens. Then, on Monday, officials announced that after thieves cut the metal piece away from the base, they sold it at a Catoosa recycling facility for $250.

Officials at the museum say they are devastated, but are grateful to the Tulsa Police Department for their work.

A GoFundMe page has been launched to raise money for a replacement. The insurance deductible to replace the statue will cost $10,000, and the Tulsa Historical Society says they will need to raise an additional $5,000 for security.

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Tulsa Historical Society
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The remnants of the Marjorie Tallchief statue after it was recovered from a Catoosa recycling facility.

Michelle Place, the Society's director, is optimistic that the statue will be replaced.

"We have spoken with the artist, Gary Henson, and after hearing the extent of the damage and missing pieces, his immediate response was “I can do this!” said Place. "Restoration may be possible with the missing pieces and existing molds, however, Henson is willing to create a replica in case the pieces cannot be restored."

Place said she and the Society staff have received an outpouring of support.

"Our inboxes are full of offers to help, from donations to security experts, to artists, historians, and media," said Place.

The Five Moons statues were created by local artists Monte England and Gary Henson and were gifted to the museum by Charles and Peggy Stephenson and Billie and Howard Barnett.

Marjorie Tallchief was an Osage citizen and is considered to be one of America’s first prima ballerinas at a time when European women dominated the artform. She became the first Native American to be named the "première danseuse étoile" in the Paris Opera Ballet. She grew up in Fairfax, where a theater is named after her and her sister, until the family moved to Los Angeles so she and Maria, her older sister, could study ballet.

Marjorie died on November 30, 2021 at her home in Boca Raton, Florida. She was 95.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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