Big Elk sculpture on display at KANEKO

“For native people, it’s really empowering. It gives us a feeling that we’re no longer invisible.”
The sculpture of Chief Big Elk that will eventually be housed at the RiverFront is now on display at KANEKO in Omaha's Old Market.
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 5:25 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - “For native people, it’s really empowering. It gives us a feeling that we’re no longer invisible.”

At 10 feet tall, what the artist calls “life-and-a-half size,” the sculpture of Chief Big Elk is hard to miss.

A statue of Omaha chief Big Elk is now on display at a downtown Omaha art studio.

“I was really trying to portray the great leadership and courage Chief Big Elk had,” said artist Benjamin Victor. “As a tribal chief, he was a warrior first, but he was also a visionary who saw the problems that were to come.”

Victor has been working on the sculpture for about six months. He wants people to see the strength and dignity of the last blood chief of the Omaha tribe.

“It’s great to recognize and to think back to that history and understand we need to be mindful of our indigenous people in this area and respect the land...that they were here on first,” Victor said.

Judi Gaiashkibos, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, tells 6 News the sculpture will give Native children something to look up to.

“Most people think we don’t exist anymore,” Gaiashkibos said. “A lot of people think we’re all gone and dead, but there are a lot of urban Indians that live here in the City of Omaha, so they can come here and they can feel a sense of connection to past history. We’re the first people, but we’ll always be here.”

The Chief Big Elk sculpture is made of clay, with some finishing touches still to come before the piece will be cast in bronze. The artwork will then go to its permanent home on Lewis and Clark Landing on the RiverFront.

“Hopefully it will give recognition in the space where people [can] study and learn that these people were already here before the settlement came and they lived on this land,” Gaiashkibos said. “They loved this land, and it was a part of them spiritually.”

The sculpture is currently on display at KANEKO at 11th and Jones through Feb. 12, from 1 to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

The sculpture will be dedicated at Lewis and Clark Landing later this summer.