World’s Tallest Indian
For starters, you should know that it’s the World’s Tallest Indian, not the world’s largest. And if you want to be completely accurate, it’s the world’s tallest sculpture of an American Indian, in case you were expecting to be met in person by a particularly tall member of the Wabanaki tribe.
Icon of the Kennebec Valley
Next, the hard facts: The Skowhegan Indian (as he’s officially known) is 62 feet tall and made of 24,000 pounds of white pine. He was carved in 1969 by local sculptor Bernard Langlais, and restored in 2014. You’ll find him just off of Maine's Route 201, also known (at least in Skowhegan) as Madison Avenue. Turn onto High Street and into the parking lot behind the Cumberland Farms, and there he’ll be. Located on the Kennebec River, Skowhegan roughly translates to “a place to watch for fish” in the Wabanaki dialect, which explains why our tall friend is holding a fishing net.
Now that we’ve answered the what, your next question is likely to be, “But why?” The short answer is that the Skowhegan Indian was commissioned in observance of Maine’s sesquicentennial. But he embodies much more history than just Maine’s 150th anniversary. The inscription at the base of the sculpture dedicates the sculpture to “the Maine Indians, the first people to use these lands in peaceful ways.” He was modeled after the area’s original inhabitants, the Wabanaki, which included the Micmac, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Penobscot tribes. It was these people who helped the Pilgrim colonists make it through their first few New England winters in the early 1600s.
The Skowhegan Indian is also just the tip of the (very tall) iceberg that is the Langlais Art Trail. Bernard “Blackie” Langlais’ iconic oversized wooden creations can be found in more than 50 locations throughout the state. Langlais was closely associated with the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, so more than two dozen of his pieces can still be seen in this small town—everywhere from the public library to the parking lot behind the local food mart.