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Black Hawk takes his place at West High

The Salt Creek Singers perform song around drum decomissioned from Field Museum Friday West AurorHigh during ceremony unveil sculpture Chief

The Salt Creek Singers perform a song around a drum decomissioned from the Field Museum on Friday at West Aurora High during a ceremony to unveil a sculpture of Chief Black Hawk. Jeff Cagle / For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 30, 2011 12:30AM

AURORA — Friday morning marked the culmination of an eight-year effort by the West Aurora High School class of 1958, as it presented its alma mater with a commissioned statue of West High’s mascot, Chief Black Hawk.

Current and former students, along with staff and native American descendants of Black Hawk attended the ceremony for the unveiling in the school’s library.

“This is a true symbol,” West High Principal Ross Truemper said. “It means something. It’s not just a decal on a football helmet.”

School Board president and class of ’58 alum Neal Ormond mentioned that the school chose the mascot when the first stand-alone high school was located on Blackhawk Street in Aurora. The street was named after the Indian chief from Rock Island.

“We value our heritage. We value the people we put up as role models,” Ormond said.

The class got together and decided that it wanted to do something to give back to the school. After reviewing a list of things the school wanted, the class determined the statue was appropriate.

Jeane Alexander Goehlen presented the statue on behalf of the class. Alums from the class were asked for money and an auction fundraiser was held. There were 53 members of the class who contributed to the sculpture.

“We don’t do anything on a small scale,” she said.

Members of the Salt Creek Singers performed two songs at the ceremony. Ormond mentioned that one of the drums that they used was decommissioned from the Field Museum in Chicago.

The museum wanted to use it in an exhibit that would allow anyone to hit it. An employee of the museum convinced officials that that would be inappropriate, and now this group of Native American performers from Chicago uses it in performances.

Principal Chief George Thurmond of the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma also spoke at the event. Thurmond is a direct descendant of Chief Black Hawk. Black Hawk was a fierce warrior, strong leader and a man who loved his people, Thurmond said. He also was the first Native American to tell his story in an autobiography.

It is important to acknowledge those who came before you, Thurmond said.

“Our past is like a blood line,” he said. “It’s living and breathing and grows as we grow.”

Sculptor Gareth Curtiss said he enjoyed doing the research and spending the time on the sculpture.

“I wound up living with the ideas for quite a while,” he said.

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