Indian carving under siege from insects, weather

After 23 years of standing guard to the entrance of Brandon Park near Market and Hepburn streets, the Indian Chief carving Woapalanne is showing his age.

More than two decades ago, artist Peter Wolf Toth carved Woapalanne at the park’s entrance as part of a national effort, the “Trail of Whispering Giants,” by the artist to carve similar wooden statues of indigenous American Indians. Woapalanne was dedicated on Oct. 14, 1990.

But now, exposure to the elements and insects have weakened and rotted the wooden bottom sitting on the stone base and other parts of the artwork, according to Sally Wiegand, chairwoman of the Brandon Park Commission.

The carving of the image of the Munsee Indian chief of the Revolutionary War era is decaying, she said, adding the “bottom is rotting out.”

Dave Myers, a foreman with the city Streets and Parks Department, recently brought the issue to the commission’s attention, Wiegand said.

Woapalanne, a warrior whose name is translated as “bald eagle,” led war parties against settlers, including family of John Brady. The fort named after Brady was located outside Muncy. Brady’s eldest brother is reputed to have killed Woapalanne, according to the Eastern Delaware Nation’s website.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana believes the Indian statue should be saved because of it what it brings to the city and how it epitomizes native history.

He’s not certain how to save it, however. Myers told Wiegand and others at the commission the statue may last another two to three years, but Wiegand said a hole half way up is allowing water inside. It’s been inspected and determined to be infested with flying insects that are entering and leaving the artwork through small cracks, she said.

“Myers said it was in no immediate danger of collapsing,” Wiegand said.

Plans are to look at the architectural design to determine the structure’s stability and try to contact the artist.

“We’re afraid water and insects may have damaged the interior of the head portion,” Wiegand said.

“I’m upset and hope we can find some way to save the statue,” she said.