Depressed town in the Gogebic Iron Range
"Indian Kitsch as Roadside Attraction"
Ironwood is proud of this statue, proudly claiming it as "The World's Tallest Indian". It stands 52 feet high, and was dedicated in 1964. This year, in 2004, Ironwood is celebrating its 40th anniversary with commemorations and a fundraiser to preserve. It is in the middle of a residential area, and there appears to have been no Native American input to its design or placement.
Of course, it's a good thing to remember the historic presence of Native Americans in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. And it's not just historic - there are still significant Native American communities throughout the region, particularly the Hannahville, L'Anse-Baraga, and Bay Mills reservations. I have a high regard for sites that honor and respect the Native presence in this beautiful part of the United States. Does "the World's Tallest Indian" provide "honor and respect" for Natives?
Images of Indians are a frequent site around Ironwood. Nearby is "Indianhead Mountain," a functioning ski resort that provides an important boost to the local economy. Indian heads are popular in advertizing local establishments, including this downtown tavern.
"A Mining Past"
Ironwood's 19th century growth was spurred by the discovery of iron throughout the region, as this local marker attests:
On this site on October 8, 1871, geologist Raphael Pumpelly of Harvard University discovered one the iron ore formations that created Gogebic County's "boom era". The Newport mine named for Pumpelly's home in Rhode Island, began operations in 1884, the Geneva Mine in 1887. By the closing of the mines in 1966, 255 million tons of iron ore had been shipped from Gogebic County,m and 67 million from adjoining Iron County Wisconsin.
History buffs may recall that October 8, 1871 was also the date of the Great Fires of Chicago IL and Peshtigo WI. Reportedly, here from this hillside in in Ironwood MI Pumpelly could see dark clouds of smoke from the Peshtigo fire a hundred miles distant.