Sculpture will help support U.S. Marshals Museum’s mission and tell Native history

Cherokee artist Daniel HorseChief is designing the Lighthorse Monument for the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas, after being selected by the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes and approved by the museum’s board of directors.

The life-sized bronze statue will reflect a Native law enforcement officer of the post-Civil War era patrolling Indian Territory. The Lighthorseman’s attire will include a Native-designed hunting jacket, and he will be sitting astride a rearing horse, making the statue 14 feet tall. The base of the statue will feature traditional Southeast Indian designs to honor the ancestral homelands of the Five Tribes – the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole – prior to forced removal into Indian Territory in the 1830s. The statue will be set at the center of a 40-foot-square plaza outside the museum and will include space for each tribe to tell their story.

Cherokee Nation’s history and the history of the U.S. Marshals Service are very much intertwined because of the complicated jurisdictional issues that defined that era. We have a deep and colorful history with the U.S. marshals. Many of the men serving as U.S. deputy marshals out of the Fort Smith federal court during the frontier era were cross-deputized Cherokee citizens.  It is important for us to honor the men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

In fact, our own Marshal Service at the Cherokee Nation is modeled after the U.S. Marshals Service. The Cherokee Nation is committed to preserving its history and being an active participant in ensuring our histories and our stories are told and shared properly.

As president of the Inter-Tribal Council, I presided over many excellent submissions and ideas for this forthcoming statue during our last quarterly meeting. I know Daniel HorseChief’s designs hold special meaning to tribal citizens across northeast Oklahoma. A resident of Sallisaw, his bronze works are also displayed at Sequoyah High School, Northeastern State University, the Cherokee Heritage Center and the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center.

This design, which the five tribes have commissioned, truly honors our Native law enforcement, who, both historically and today, serve as protectors of our tribal people and land, and it pays respect to the dedication and sacrifice of lawmen and Indian U.S. marshals who worked tirelessly to bring peace and order to Indian Territory and its borders.

Our partners at the U.S. Marshals Museum, scheduled to open in Fort Smith in the fall of 2019, have a mission to educate, inspire and entertain visitors with state-of-the-art exhibits highlighting more than 200 years of history and achievements as America's oldest federal law enforcement agency, from their creation in 1789 to the present.

Bill John Baker is the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.