In this week’s History Tid Bit Tuesday, we’d like to elaborate on a story that WBOC recently published, “Ocean City Sculpture Gets Facelift.” Today, it is a rare pleasure to come across a positive news story, and this one certainly was not only a good news moment, but also a story that encouraged a deeper dive into the history behind that “Indian head” at the Ocean City Inlet. Who wouldn’t get excited about Delmarva’s Native American heritage and a weathered oak statue?!
Many of us are familiar with the famous Native American sculpture that presides over the last bend in the road before visitors flood the Ocean City inlet lot. A spectacle of intricately carved Oak standing 20 feet tall with our National Seashore to its south, number 21 of Hungarian artist Peter Toth’s 74 wood carved statues commemorates the local Native American tribes that once called this area home. Completed in 1976, the statue, formerly named “Nanticoke,” is part of what is referenced as the Trail of Whispering Giants, a project that Toth began in the early seventies to recognize the nations Native American roots. Primarily utilizing only simple tools like hammer, chisel, and axe, Toth has created statues in all 50 states, representing the tribes unique to the areas in which they were created. For Toth, the project became a life’s mission that he attributes to his own experience growing up as a child in Hungary, where the communist regime stole land from the people. Intriguing, too, is the variety of wood that Toth has chosen to use throughout the duration of the project (Oak, Maple, Cedar, Elm, Parotta, White Fir, Cypress, Tulip Poplar, Pine, Cottonwood, Douglas Fir, Spruce, and Redwood), and how some of the statues have gradually succumb to the challenges of Time (rot, elm disease, termites, weather).
Toth has undeniably utilized his gift and that of art to raise awareness to the cultural legacy left by Native Americans on this land. And so, let us not overlook that carved oak tree that to this day stands tall, newly renovated, and overlooking the Ocean City inlet, jetties, Assateague Island, and us. A testament to the native tribes that once called this area home. Once, not along, Delmarva belonged to small tribes of the Algonquian Nation. The real locals.
To learn more about the Trail of Whispering Giants, statue location and other facts, visit http://www.dcschumaker.com/statues.htm.