Missing Indian head turns up in Texas

The Indian bust that was stolen from Hotel Clovis in July of was found Monday night in a ditch near Littlefield, Texas. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

The Indian chief statue that disappeared in July from atop the Hotel Clovis has been discovered in Texas.

The 73-year-old artifact was ditched alongside a road six miles northeast of Littlefield, Texas, said Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher. It was first found on Sept. 20 by Texas Department of Transportation workers clearing weeds.

There was some damage to the war bonnet of the statue and the head had separated from its base, but otherwise it appeared to be in good shape, Hatcher said.
“It was placed where it was at (in the ditch),” Hatcher said. “It didn’t fall off a truck or anything like that.”
Hatcher was tipped off by Clovis resident James Taylor, who read a brief in the Sept. 30 edition of the Olton Enterprise, from Olton, Texas, that read “a large concrete Indian chief’s head was found. The case is under investigation.”

Taylor grew up in Olton and receives the Olton Enterprise every week. He read the brief Monday and contacted the sheriff about the possible find.

“The description they gave was pretty suspicious. It said they were investigating a large head of an Indian chief,” Taylor said. “I felt pretty good when Roger (Hatcher) told me for sure that was the one we’ve been looking for.”

Hatcher and City Manager Ray Mondragon took a road trip Monday night to reclaim the head, which was still in the ditch.

“Neither Ray (Mondragon) nor I wanted to leave it laying over there,” Hatcher said.

Mondragon said he wanted to get over to Littlefield as soon as possible and reclaim the Clovis monument.

“The city manager was blamed for it being taken, so I wanted to make sure the city manager was there to take it back,” Mondragon said, referencing letters that appeared in the Clovis News Journal blaming him for not securing the artifact after it was suspiciously moved two weeks before being taken. “We always believed that it would turn up somewhere because it was a unique piece.”

It took the combined effort of three men — Mondragon, Hatcher and a maintenance supervisor for the Texas Department of Transportation — to heave the 350-pound head into the back of Hatcher’s truck. A small tractor was used to lift the concrete base into the bed of the truck.

“(The weight of the head and base) squatted my pickup down considerably,” Hatcher said.

A considerable depression was left in the ditch when the base of the bust was lifted, Mondragon said, indicating the artifact could have been sitting there for a long time before discovered.

Hatcher believed whoever took the monument from the hotel intended on selling it in a collector’s market.

Mondragon said widespread media coverage and multiple investigations may have given the thieves cold feet.

“My personal opinion is I think things got a little heated. There was a lot of media attention on this; the FBI artifact division was well aware of it,” Mondragon said. “Our goal is to get it fixed and to hopefully mount it back on the hotel.”

Mondragon said his intent is to remount the head on the hotel.

Hatcher said the statue would be better served in a library or at a city building.

Mondragon said the investigation into the theft will continue.

The artifact can be viewed starting at 9 a.m. today in the Bert Cabiness Assembly Room in City Hall during a press conference.