9th Grade Expedition

Jonah Vimont

After journeying on their Outward Bound excursion a little more than a week ago, the WESS 9th graders have officially dived into their first major expedition: Native American underrepresentation. 

In order to understand this phenomenon, the freshmen embarked on a trip through Central Park to examine the different statues and monuments. 

The 9th graders were greeted by a bright, beautiful day in the park.

Our first stop was the Alice in Wonderland statue, located on the South East side of the park near 75th street. The statue is unique as it is the first statue of a female in the park after being erected almost 100 years ago. 

The statue was designed to be large enough for kids to play on which contributes to the theme of Alice in Wonderland.

We noticed that the statue was very large to give kids a chance to climb and play, leaning into the Alice in Wonderland theme. The characters also have fun and unusual expressions, lending to the whimsical feel. After observing the Alice in Wonderland statue, our group made its way over and through Bethesda Terrace where we were greeted by artwork that covered the walls and ceiling. 

Bethesda Fountain, a fountain connected with Bethesda Terrace, was created by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to receive a public art commission from NYC.

After walking through the amazing architecture and artwork at Bethesda Terrace, our group made our way through a path in Central Park known as The Mall. The Mall features statues and monuments of important literary figures such as Sojourner Truth, Susan B Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who make up the Women’s Rights Pioneers statue. 

At this stop, we acknowledged how the women were presented and depicted. Topics of discussion included how the women are portrayed as being larger than their actual size, as well as engaging in civil and “intelligent” behavior, sitting and talking with each other. We were pleased to notice that the statue was large and on a raised pedestal. This is important because it conveys to viewers that the statue is significant and meaningful. 

From the Women’s Rights Pioneers statue, we made our way off the path to an unmarked and smaller statue, depicting a Native American hunting with his dog. 

The statue was off the main path and was unmarked.

The statue is titled Indian Hunter however, the only way you would know that is if you explicitly Googled it. The statue is also in a removed location that doesn’t naturally receive a lot of foot traffic. The Indian Hunter is smaller than other statues and its base isn’t as profound and detailed. This plays into the underrepresentation that has pursued Native Americans for centuries,  depicting Native Americans as less important than their white counterparts.

We noted these observations before continuing to our final destination, out of the park. For our final location, we headed to Columbus Circle to view the prominent statue that dominates the rotary. 

Because of the monument’s size, it is almost impossible to take a photo that captures it in its entirety from such a close distance.

The Columbus Circle monument is very large standing at 76 feet tall. The pedestal makes up a large portion of the statue and is nearly as big, if not bigger, than other statues, such as the Indian Hunter. 

This leads to the problem that statues of underrepresented groups, such as Native Americans, haven’t been displayed on the same scale as statues of white people. During our expedition kick-off, we discussed this and the possible repercussions it might have on the community. We also called attention to the people or events being portrayed by the monuments. The Indian Hunter statue portrays someone hunting, which could be seen as a deliberately negative depiction, while other monuments in or near the park show people having discussions or standing watchfully, which are generally considered wise or positive. 

Overall, throughout the 9th-grade kick-off, we enjoyed looking at multiple monuments and statues in our attempt to distinguish certain features and learn more about the park’s history.