End of the Trail – National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

The ‘End of the Trail’ statue looms, large and lonely, at the far end of the entrance hall to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma. Memorializing the forced migration of Native American tribes to what was known as ‘Indian Territory’, before it became the State of Oklahoma, the museum balances many conflicting ideals and histories. Setting the ‘End of the Trail’ in its own space, visible as visitors enter the museum, sets a tone that lingers and tempers the more exuberant exhibits celebrating the romanticization of cowboy life through the movies.

The End of the Trail Statue

The End of the Trail statue depicts a weary American Indian brave and his horse, limp and exhausted from their journey. More than this it symbolizes the plight of Native Americans as European immigrants flooded the United States and made their way west, clearing the land and moving indigenous people on.

This is the original plaster statue created by James Earle Fraser for the 2015 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in California. In 1968 it was moved from Visalia, California to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum where it was restored and put on display.

Fraser created a bronze copy of the sculpture in 1929 under a commission from Clarence Shaler as a tribute to Native Americans. The bronze is sited in Shaler Park, Wisconsin.

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