Statue of Native American ballerina star is stolen and sold for scrap

At the end of a row of statues in Tulsa, Okla., Marjorie Tallchief, a famous Native American ballerina, has stood ensconced in bronze, p...


At the end of a row of statues in Tulsa, Okla., Marjorie Tallchief, a famous Native American ballerina, has stood ensconced in bronze, point-toe in a tutu, since 2007.

But on Friday, his statue, on the grounds of the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, was severed from its base, hacked and sold for cash, said Michelle Place, the museum’s executive director.

“It’s just a punch,” Ms. Place said.

On Monday, Ms Place said, workers at a local recycling center found pieces of Ms Tallchief’s statue, including parts of the torso, tutu and legs. They called the police.

The Tulsa Police Department said in a statement that he was investigating the theft but did not immediately respond to emails or phone calls on Monday.

Credit…Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

Ms Place said when five sculptures, including that of Ms Tallchief, were installed in 2007, they were valued at $120,000 in total. Someone sold parts of the Ms. Tallchief statue to a recycling center for $266, which paid for the bronze pieces by the pound.

But museum staff believe two people may have stolen the statue and taken the pieces to two different recycling centers, Ms Place said. The head and arms of the sculpture have not been found.

“I guess they had no idea what those bronze statues meant,” she said.

Ms. Tallchief was a flexible and versatile dancer and an international star with stints in major French and American companies.

French critic Irène Lidova describes Mrs. Tallchief in 1950 as a brilliant and dynamic performer. “By her almost acrobatic virtuosity”, wrote Ms. Lidova, “she embodies the perfect dancer for our time”.

Ms Tallchief grew up on the Osage Nation reservation in an Oklahoma oil family and died in November 2021 at the age of 95.

She and her older sister, Maria Grandchefwere part of a group known as the Five Moons, Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who reached the heights of ballet in the 20th century, when many famous ballerinas were white.

They and the other three – Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower and Moscelyne Larkin – are memorialized in the row of statues outside the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum.

Ms Place said it was not clear why the statue of Ms Tallchief was chosen, but it may have been because it was at the end of the row and near a tree which could hide.

Alexander Skibine, one of Ms Tallchief’s two sons, said he was in disbelief when he learned his mother’s statue had been stolen.

“Why would anyone do that?” he said on Monday evening.

The Tulsa Police Department hadn’t named any suspects as of Monday night, but Ms. Place, who spoke with police, said the department was pursuing “very good leads.”

The museum is considering rebuilding the statue of Mrs. Tallchief. Ms Place said Gary Henson, who made the sculpture, told her he would bring the statue “back to life”.

The museum is trying to raise $10,000 to cover the statue’s insurance deductible and $5,000 to install security cameras near the Five Moons, Ms Place said.

In a statement late Monday, Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum said the statues are “a point of pride” that celebrate the city’s Native American heritage.

“For someone to steal one and destroy it to resell it for scrap,” he wrote, “is a disgrace.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Statue of Native American ballerina star is stolen and sold for scrap
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