Cherokee Chieftain sculpture still a tourist favorite
by Special to the Banner
Sep 16, 2012 | 1252 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cherokee Chieftain
KITRA BURNHAM and her friend, Oscar Dillon from Richwood, W.Va., stopped by to visit Cleveland’s Cherokee Chieftain Sept. 3. She saw Cleveland ’s famous Chieftain for the first time 25 years ago.
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Kitra Burnham and her friend, Oscar Dillon from Richwood, W.Va., stopped by to visit Cleveland’s Cherokee Chieftain Sept. 3.

Burnham has seen 52 of Peter Toth’s famous “Whispering Giants” in person. Her treasured list of Toth’s wooden sculptures is dated with each of her visits.

“I am so thrilled to see you have chosen such a perfect place for him,” she said.

She saw Cleveland’s famous Chieftain for the first time 25 years ago when she came to the area to raft the Ocoee River. Burnham has been a Volks Walker (noncompetitive group walking) for 22 years.

About 10 years ago she was in the area Volks Walking and checked in on the local Whispering Giant again. He was still at Johnston Park then as well.

When she stopped in the park and he wasn’t there, she said she almost panicked. She quickly went to a store close by and was told he had been moved to the Museum Center at Five Points.

She and her Volks Walker friend spent several hours at the museum. They toured, visited with volunteers and staff, and collected information about Toth and his Trail of Whispering Giants.

Burnham says many of the cities she visits have not appreciated the treasure they have received by having Toth carve one of his masterpieces in their area.

Some have not been cared for and have eventually gone to ruin, though most have been protected from elements and harm.

Toth’s stated mission in creating these beautiful sculptures is to honor Native Americans. Burnham, who is a social worker, says this is the first place in all her journeys to see Toth’s “Whispering Giants” that she has found his works for sale.

She enjoyed looking around the Museum’s store and shared that she would love to save up to purchase one of his treasured pieces one day. Several years ago she visited Toth’s multi-acre “outdoor museum,” but he was traveling and she missed the opportunity to meet him.

Tracy O’Connell, store manager, shared the story of Toth’s leaving his cosigned pieces in the store.

“Last fall Peter stayed a week giving the Chieftain a facelift. We asked him if he might consider leaving his small pieces to sell.

“He shared that he has only tried that once or twice and was not happy with the way it turned out in the end. But Sunday evening as he was leaving town he called my cellphone about 8:30 at night. He asked me to meet him at the museum.

“When I arrived, he had about 15 pieces laid out for me to choose from. We at the museum treasure them and are thrilled when someone comes in who loves them as much as we do — and when someone takes one home to keep!”

Toth doesn’t have a website, but his information flyer is given away at the museum, as well as a fact sheet about his famous “Whispering Giants.”