(Above) Shooting the Stars by sculptor John Szaton. Photo by Terence Faircloth.
A bronze statue in the Lane Tech Memorial Garden that depicts a Native American warrior in feathered headdress is a tribute to Laneites who died in United States wars. But some students and alumni say it reinforces harmful racial stereotypes.
Lane students died in the Argonne Forest in France in World War I. They died on remote South Pacific islands, on the beaches of Normandy and in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and later in United States wars fought in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Some 314 World War II fallen Lane Tech heroes and more than 50 veterans of World War I, Korea, and Vietnam are solemnly honored by name on plaques displayed in the schools Memorial Garden, noted John Schwan, retired chairman of the Lane Tech Century Foundation, which raised more than $2 million for restoration of the campus as part of the schools Centennial Celebration. The historic garden stands as a memorial to every Lane Tech man and woman who served in the U.S. Armed Forces since World War I through the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terrorism.
Schwan volunteered in 1966 and fought in combat as an officer in the U.S. Armys 1st Division Air Calvary in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. He is a decorated, disabled Purple Heart veteran.
However, the warrior statue, standing on a pedestal in the central private garden at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicagos West Lakeview neighborhood, and the schools other Indian imagery recently have come under fire from some students and alumni who say they reinforce harmful racial stereotypes of Native Americans.
|The Native American statue symbolizes the courage of our war heroes who lost their lives defending our country, and all the Lane Tech veterans who served or will serve in all wars, noted Schwan (right). The American Indian has stood as the schools mascot for more than 100 years.|
The Memorial Garden and Shooting the Stars statue by sculptor John Szaton was dedicated on October 30, 1947, to honor Lane Techs 314 Gold Star Heroes who died in World War II.
At least 6,539 Laneites served in World War II. Some 8,174 Lane Tech students served in the Armed Forces in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and in the Global War on Terrorism, according to a 2002 survey. More than 360 Lane Tech students died in all these wars. In many ways, the Memorial Garden is Lane Techs Arlington Cemetery.
In 2011, nearly 100 military veterans including 41 surviving World War II heroes were honored at the unveiling and rededication of the restored statue and Memorial Garden sculptures.
A 21-gun salute was fired by the Lane Tech JROTC and military taps were played to honor the fallen heroes, said Schwan, who estimated that 400 veterans and guests attended the event.
A $10,000 special projects grant was received from the Terra Foundation for American Art. The grant was used to help restore the statue and develop creative research projects about World War II for Lane Tech students.
The statue was not designed to epitomize an Indian of a specific tribe. It is only a pure artistic representation of a noble and brave Native American warrior, Schwan said. It is not a symbol to be taken lightly, nor quietly moved away to a dusty museum in the middle of the night.
In 2020, the Lane Tech Alumni Association created the first database of alumni who served in Vietnam and replaced the original memorial marker which had omitted the names of two Laneites killed in action in that war.
|A new granite marker (right) was installed a few weeks ago.|
Over the years Lane was known as the School of Champions because of its many athletic victories in high school football, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, track, and many other sports. Lane Tech also is ranked as one of Chicagos top high schools.
Shooting the Stars represents Lanes heritage as the School of Champions, both in sports and academic achievement, Schwan said.
Lane Tech has dubbed its teams the Indians and most students and alumni proudly wear sweaters, jackets, sweatshirts, and T-shirts lettered and embroidered with the historic Indian logo.
Principal Brian Tennison directed Lanes advisory council to address the Indian issue with a vote. In early August, the council unanimously agreed to start a process to remove the iconic warrior statue from the Memorial Garden.
The plan also would remove other Indian mascot images from the school, including a huge Native American curtain on the auditorium stage and several priceless Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals and paintings adorning the halls of the school.
Schwan asked: Who were the school council voters? Are any of them military veterans?
Next week: If the historic Shooting the Stars statue and other Native American icons are banished from the Lane Tech campus, what should the school and alumni choose as its new mascot name?
Don DeBat is a 1961 Lane Tech graduate.