Hundreds of years ago, bison herds were no strange sight to the first European settlers entering lands now known as Indiana. Generally symbolic of the Great Plains, the large grazers also were common in the Hoosier state; so much so the animal appears on the state seal. Which is why it is no surprise the Indiana Bicentennial Commission felt it important to include the bison in last year’s statehood anniversary celebrations.
The commission was created to help celebrate the state’s bicentennial “in a modern way that recognized the history but also provided opportunities for all Hoosiers to participate,” says commission Executive Director Perry Hammock.
One of those projects became the Bison-tennial Buffalo, 5-foot fiberglass bison statues provided to different counties in the state for local artists to paint. In Vanderburgh County, a bison proudly stands inside the welcome center at Angel Mounds State Historic Site.
“We indicated we would like to have one in Southwest Indiana and Vanderburgh County,” says Vectren Vice President of Community Sustainability and President of Vectren Foundation Jeff Whiteside. “They were very cooperative to help us accomplish that. And it seemed like a natural fit to have the bison in Angel Mounds.”
Newburgh, Indiana, artist Dakri Sinclair (who was featured in the September/October 2015 issue of Evansville Living) was chosen by Vectren to decorate the Vanderburgh County bison. She incorporated bright blues, yellows, and greens with patterns connected to the Native Americans who lived at the historic site hundreds of years ago. It took roughly 40 to 50 hours spread over several weeks for Sinclair to complete the project.
“I couldn’t wait to paint the bison. The challenge of a blank canvas in the shape of a life-sized animal was great fun,” says Sinclair. “I was honored to be brought in and so happy when I got official word on the landing place at Angel Mounds. He’s a perfect fit there, and I enjoyed every second of the project.”
As the bicentennial has come to an end, Hammock says he would like to see a reunion of as many of the decorated bison from Indiana as possible this summer at the Indiana State Fair.
For more information on the Bicentennial Bison Project, visit iauw.org/bison.