Erected in 1990, this life-sized bronze sculpture commemorated both Native American and settler women’s struggles to nurture their families in nineteenth-century Arizona. A Native woman and a white settler woman stand proudly with their children in front of a Prescott shopping center constructed on Yavapai tribal lands. It was removed after the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe acquired the shopping center in 2012.
This life-sized bronze sculpture commemorates
both Native American and settler women’s struggles to nurture their families in
nineteenth-century Arizona. A Native woman and a white settler woman stand
proudly with their children in front of a Prescott shopping center constructed
on Yavapai tribal lands.
This monument was erected in 1990
as Americans debated how United States’ past should be remembered. Scholars and
activists challenged traditional narratives celebrating westward expansion and
the supposed disappearance of Indigenous peoples. In contrast to Bill Nebeker’s
Early Settlers statue installed five
years earlier in downtown Prescott, Pat Mathiesen’s bronze pair of mothers honors
both the region’s Native and settler heritage.
Mathiesen’s Spirit of the Frontier depicts both women as relatively strong
maternal figures, but promises different futures for their communities. The
white pioneer wears a long, tailored prairie-style dress and her hair in a
chignon. She gazes confidently into the future, her hands resting proudly on
the shoulders of her school-aged son. The books clasped in his arm and proud
expression on his face assure the viewer that he is preparing to lead his
community and the nation.
In contrast, the Indigenous
mother wears a looser fitting blouse and long skirt that combine Euro-American
and Native American styles. She wears her hair in the traditional Yavapai
style, with bangs and long hair hanging loose. She gazes downward at her infant
tied tightly to a cradle board. This pose suggests that both woman and infant
were constrained by their cultural persistence. The mother holds her child
proudly. But that Yavapai infant will not grow into a strapping scholar
prepared to lead its people, let alone the white-dominated nation. The wagon
wheel that stands behind the settler and Native figures visually promises
progress toward a more white and civilized future.
Frontier Village shopping center
was built on tribal lands in 1991 with permission of the Yavapai-Prescott
Indian Tribe. The tribe became the sole owner and manager of the shopping
center in 2012. The statue and dedication plaque were removed about 3 years later.