Arts & Entertainment Community Government Police & Fire

Vandals damage Our Fisherman, Our Guardian statue

Posted on January 24th, 2024 By:

Vandals broke a canoe off the Our Fisherman, Our Guardian carved statue at Austin Park at txʷaalqəł Estuary late Monday or early Tuesday, Jan. 22 or 23. 

The city of Gig Harbor believes the damage occurred when someone tried to climb on the statue, carved by renowned artist and Quinault Tribal Chairman Guy Capoeman and dedicated on Sept. 15, 2022. 

Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelley said officers have not located any surveillance cameras that would have captured the incident.  

Vandals broke off a portion of the Our Fisherman, Our Guardian statue at Austin Park at txʷaalqəł estuary on the evening of Monday, Jan. 22. City officials believe the damage may have been caused inadvertently, perhaps by someone attepting to climb the statue.

‘Attempting to climb the art’

The statue, carved from redwood, depicts a Salish fisherman holding a salmon and wearing a woven cedar hat and a cedar vest typical of those made by members of the Puyallup Tribe. On each side of fisherman figure stands a Southern Salish-style canoe, also carved from redwood. 

One of those canoes was found lying on the ground next to the carving Tuesday morning. The statue sustained no other damage and showed no sign of a saw having been used. 

“The city believes the damage occurred due to someone attempting to climb the art piece,” City Administrator Katrina Knutson said in an email to Gig Harbor Now. She added, “art is for admiring, reflection, and visual enjoyment, and should not be climbed.” 

The city promised to work with Capoeman on restoration of his statue. Gig Harbor Now was unable to immediately reach Capoeman for comment. 

A piece of the Our Fisherman, Our Guardian carving at Austin Park at txʷaalqəł estuary sheered off, possibly due to someone climbing on it.

Statue honors original inhabitants

The statue stands at the historical site of txʷaalqəł, a village of the sx̌ʷəbabš band of the Puyallup Tribe 

Its completion was the culmination of a years-long effort to acknowledge and honor the Puyallups, the original inhabitants of what is now Gig Harbor. 

“It honors the people that were here and their presence here,” Capoeman told Gig Harbor Now in 2022, when the sculpture was installed. “Those ancestors are still here. 

Our Fisherman, Our Guardian was created with financial support from the Puyallup Tribe, the Kiwanis Foundation and the city of Gig Harbor Arts Commission. 

No plans for a barrier

Knutson said the city does not plan to erect a barrier around the artwork. Doing so would “that would impede the art and require additional shoreline permitting.  We are considering signage asking the public not to climb on the art structure.” 

The city intends to repair the sculpture as soon as possible and plans to discuss a timeline with Capoeman. 

The Our Fisherman, Our Guardian statue at Austin Park at txʷaalqəł estuary lost one of its canoes overnight Monday.