A request for an opinion from the Arkansas Attorneys General has called into question the ownership of the bronze indian statue in Montgomery County.
The statue, which was erected in 1936 by the WPA, stands nine feet tall and is located across the street from the post office in Caddo Gap. It was erected to commemorate what was once thought to be the western most point of Hernando de Soto’s trek across North America as he soughtb he legendary fountain of youth. According the plaques circling the statue, de Soto encountered the Tula tribe in this area, and after a three day battle retreated eastward.
Recent archeological digs have brought de Soto’s fateful battle into question and now a question raised by State Representative Stephen Meeks has brought the ownership of the monument into question.Representative Meeks stated in a phone interview recently that the request for an opinion regarding ownership of the monument was the result of a discovery he made while serving on the Joint Budget Committee Special Languages Subcommittee. He explained that while reviewing special language attached to the state parks budget he discovered that there was money set aside for maintenance and upkeep on the bronze statue in Caddo Gap.
He wondered why the state parks budget had money set aside for this when there was no record of the statue belonging to the state parks department. He had been told that the statue was the property of the city of Caddo Gap, but could not find an explanation for the special language. Assuming Caddo Gap had once been an incorporated municipality, he asked Arkansas Attorneys General Leslie Rutledge for an opinion regarding the current ownership of the monument.
The opinion stated that when an incorporated municipality ceased to be then all public property reverted back to the state, keeping it public property. However, the opinion states, “Please note, however, htat this statute would only apply to the specific issue you raised if the community of Caddo Gap were ever an incorporated town in the first place such that it would have a charter to lose. I am neither authorized nor equipped to determine these factual matters. Nor can I answer the underlying questions of who owns the “bronze Indian” monument in that community or the land upon which it sits, as these will also entail factual inquiries that are outside the scope of an opinion from this office.”
Montgomery County Clerk Penny Black stated that she had in contact with the Attorneys General Office regarding the subject and could find no record that could verify Caddo Gap had ever been incorporated.
Representative Meeks stated in the aforementioned phone interview that he was now in contact with state land commissioners office and was trying to verify that the land housing the monument doesn’t belong to anyone. Once this is verified then the monument will more than likely become the responsibility of the state parks department.
He added that he is just trying to clean up the special language attached to the state parks budget.
“If it belongs to the state parks department then there is no need for the special language. It will just be a part of their budget.”
Representative Meeks added that any special language added to a budget is meant to be temporary. He couldn’t even find when it was added. One possible explanation could be that the language was added when the current statue was erected in 1980 thanks to local efforts led by Jewel Davis and the Arkansas Arts Council. The original statue, which was made of copper, had fallen from his perch after a storm some years earlier. The new statue sits on the same pedestal and is now surrounded by four plaques placed there by the Arkansas History Commission.
Representative Meeks wanted to reassure the residents of Caddo Gap that no one wants to see anything happen to the statue. He just wants to clean up the special language attached to it and make sure it is taken care of by its rightful owner.