Muncie gained a new community member last night — a bison named Neolin.
Neolin and 91 other members of his herd were commissioned to represent every county in Indiana for the Bison-tennial Public Art Project, which aims to celebrate Indiana’s 200th birthday with a bison statue to represent each county’s heritage.
Local artist Denise King painted Delaware County’s bison. King’s design represents the vibrant beadwork of Delaware County’s first people, the Lenape.
“We have a lot of art here in Muncie but not a lot of it represents our heritage," King said. "I was really looking to create something that allows a narrative for the heritage of our town.”
The bison has been touring around the county as part of the bicentennial celebrations, and it recently made an appearance at the Muncie Central Field House, where 1,000 4th-grade students got the chance to enter a contest to name the bison.
Tristan Parks, a student from Royerton Elementary, received the honor of naming the work of art. He chose the Lenape name Neolin, which means “prophet” or “enlightened one.”
Neolin, who made his way to Tuhey Park Oct. 6, will permanently reside in the Muncie community for residents to view and enjoy.
Janet Burkhardt, a Muncie community member who attended the dedication ceremony, said she was excited about the piece, especially because it was going on display for all to see at a popular city park.
“I think it’s a great addition," Burkhardt said. "It is good for the community to not only know the history of the Ball brothers but also the heritage of the Native Americans who lived here.”
King said she too hopes the addition will spark an interest in the subject matter on those who lived on Delaware County's lands once before.
“[The Lenape] have been pushed and pushed and their culture is slowly disappearing," King said. "Maybe if people in this community knew more about them, they would fight to keep their culture around.”
King also said there are plans to add a plaque next to the bison so visitors can learn more about the meaning of the painting and the culture of the Lenape.
Neolin is now open to the public at Tuhey Park, located at the intersection of West White River Boulevard and North Wheeling Avenue.