Closing Era Statue
Closing Era is a bronze statue nestled on the east side of the State Capitol Building. It is a powerful monument speaking to western expansion, and a dying race. A Native American stands next to a bison, dying from the shot of his bow. The Fortnightly Club, donated the statue in 1893. They decided to make the face of the native resemble Chief Ouray. He was the primary contact for treaty negotiations between the Ute Indians and the U.S. Government.
Backstory and Context
This statue is located on the east side of the State Capitol building. It was donated by Colorado Woman of the “Fortnightly Club.” It holds heavy symbolism of a time period ending to make way for western expansion. The model represented was Chief Ouray. Ouray often found himself between his people and the U.S. Government.
In 1892, the Fortnightly Club wanted to participate in the World’s Fair Exposition in Chicago. They proposed the Closing Era statue for the Colorado State exhibit. Leaders of the club, Mrs. Eliza Routt and Mrs. E.M. Ashley planned to raise $10,000 to purchase the statue. It was meant for display at the exposition, and afterwards to its permanent spot at the Capitol. Additionally they wanted Chief Ouray’s face to be used verses that of a generic American Indian.
Chief Ouray lived from 1833-80. His name means Arrow in his tribal Ute language. He was the leader of the Tabeguache band of Ute Indians in Colorado. However he held no true authority over the Colorado Utes. This position was imposed on him by the U.S. Government. He was made the primary contact for treaties. His upbringing as a servant to Padre Martinez, a large landowner in the New Mexico region, prepared him for high society. Ouray was fluent in Apache, and learned Ute, Spanish and some English during his lifetime. His knowledge of the land and language made him an ideal candidate for negotiations. Unfortunately many of the treaties he participated in, resulted in the forced removal of the Ute Natives from Colorado. Some deals were made under shady pretenses. One was the reunion of Ouray’s kidnapped son, in exchange for sale of the San Juan Mountains.
Artist Preston Powers created this representative memorial of a Native American standing over a dying bison. Closing Era depicts pre-settlement life in Colorado. Something that came to an end as people moved westward in hopes of great fortune. The bronze sits on a base of granite from Cotopaxi, Colorado. A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier was commissioned for the base.
The poem reads:
The mountain eagle from his snow-locked peaks
For the wild hunter and the bison seeks
In the chang’d world below; and find alone
Their graven semblance, in the eternal stone
- Closing Era Statue, Denver Public Library. Accessed June 21st 2020. https://digital.denverlibrary.org/digital/collection/p15330coll22/id/77460/.
- Ouray, Colorado Encyclopedia. Accessed June 23rd 2020. https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/ouray.