OREGON – To many area residents, the Black Hawk statue near Oregon is a familiar sight with an equally familiar history.
It’s one of the tales Geoffrey Baer aims to share in an upcoming WTTW special, “Beyond Chicago From the Air.” The one-hour special – set to debut 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 – utilizes drone footage to illustrate regional stories of waterways, land and the human impact on them.
“Learning about the waterways, you start to realize how interconnected everything his,” said Baer, who has been a WTTW host and writer for more than 25 years. “One of those waterways is the Rock River, which flows right past The Eternal Indian.”
The Eternal Indian is another name for the Black Hawk statue, which was created in 1910 by sculptor Lorado Taft as a tribute to Native Americans. Located in Lowden State Park, the 48-foot-tall concrete figure was dedicated in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
“The Eternal Indian is so important to our region that anything we can get at all to promote it is absolutely fantastic,” Oregon Mayor Ken Williams said when told of the show. “And with the recent restoration, it really looks good. … The next step is that the parks group, they’re going to redo the plaza around the statue, put in new roads, some benches, some bricks. It’s going to be fantastic. It’s going to be a great place to visit and just relax.”
Taft didn’t actually name the statue, according to the monument’s National Register of Historic Places registration form. Secondary literature suggest the statue’s name is The Eternal Indian, but there is no conclusive link to Taft, the form notes.
Of designing the statue, the form cites Taft as saying: “I did not study any one type of race of Indians. It is a composite of the Foxes, and the Sacs, the Sioux, and the Mohawks, and, in short, it represents the Indian personality.”
“Beyond Chicago From the Air” builds on Baer’s 2020 project, “Chicago From the Air,” which came about as a way to continue “touring” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the process of developing “Chicago From the Air,” they kept coming up with interesting ideas that weren’t in the city, he said. They had to limit themselves for that special, but were able to expand with “Beyond Chicago From the Air,” Baer said. “There’s so much more to see just beyond the metro areas of Chicago.”
The first show ended up as “sort of the ultimate in social distancing,” Baer said. “It was great, and people really enjoyed seeing this sort of different perspective than you could get from the ground.”
There are many programs that use aerial footage, but often what’s used are wide, floating shots, he said, going on to say that although they’re “beautiful” pictures, he wanted something different. So they used a drone for aerial footage instead of shooting from a helicopter.
“There are shots of that monument [the Black Hawk statue] that we got with a drone that you never could have gotten with a helicopter,” Baer said. “We wanted it to be that, to be exciting, to circle and swoop and dive and things like that.”
He aimed to include a focus on storytelling in the specials, Baer said, noting that that attribute is a hallmark of his work.
“What’s the story behind it? That’s what I enjoy,” he said.
“Beyond Chicago From the Air” is scheduled to premier Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. on all WTTW platforms.
It will air multiple times over the news couple weeks and will remain available at www.WTTW.com/beyondchicago. Also on the website will be behind-the-scenes video and commentary, a map and guide to featured locations and more.