IRVING - Travelers along the New York State Thruway know that when you see the "Big Indian" statue, you are close to home. Travelers now will have to rely on Thruway signs to know they are close to home.
Overnight Tuesday, the statue located at the Big Indian Smoke Shop on Milestrip Road was knocked down.
"It is our landmark and our trademark," owner Cyrus Schindler said.
OBSERVER?Photo by Samantha McDonnell
The “Big Indian” statue located facing the Thruway at the Big Indian Smoke Shop in Irving was vandalized and knocked over overnight Tuesday. The vandals managed to break off the hand from the statue and get away with it.
According to Schindler, an individual or group of individuals came onto the property to steal the statue overnight. The statue is bolted to a pole and attached to four supports for reinforcement. Cyrus said the culprits took off the bolts and dug up the posts from the ground.
"They looked at (the statue) and knew what they (the vandals) were doing," Schindler said.
Schindler received a call from a family friend who works for the Thruway authority at 6:20 Wednesday morning saying the statue had been knocked over. The statue, which weighs more than 1,000 pounds and is 30 feet tall, is secured to a metal frame.
Schindler believes when the vandals could not loosen the feet, which are bolted to a metal frame, they cut the feet off the statue. Besides damage to the feet, the headdress is broken and the chest received damage. The vandals managed to break off the hand of the statue and get away with it.
After cutting bolts, Schindler believes the vandals tied a rope around the chest of the statue to drag the statue toward the Thruway, which is where the vandals are believed to have entered the property from.
"We could see where the tall grass was moved," he said.
It is believed the vandals did not want to vandalize the statue, but in fact steal it, but since it is so big, the vandals must have quit, Schindler said. In order to take the statue away, a flatbed truck would have been needed.
The statue has been on the property for 12 years, Schindler said. A similar statue is in the front of the property but since being damaged by weather, has been taken down for repair. The statue was originally at the Iroquois Brewing Company in Buffalo. When the company closed in the 1960s, the statue was put up for auction. Schindler acquired the statue from a Seneca auction in Avon. The statue has also been featured in a book about roadside attractions. Schindler believes there are only three other similar statues to his two in the country.
The statue is made of fiberglass and Schindler has intentions of repairing it and placing it back up. While he does not know who caused the vandalism, he said it was a sad occurrence.
"It is a sad thing," Schindler said. "It is shared with the public."
New York State Police at Collins and the Seneca Nation of Indian Marshals are assisting in the investigation.
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