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Keeper of the Plains

For those living by the motto “pics or it didn’t happen,” no visit to Wichita, Kansas, is complete without snapping at least one photo of the Keeper of the Plains.

This five-ton, 44-foot-tall steel sculpture is the most recognizable landmark in Wichita, the Heart of the Country, and is one of the region’s most photographed pieces of public art. The majestic work by Native American artist Blackbear Bosin stands in downtown Wichita, where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers join. Everyone gathers near the Keeper during its nightly Ring of Fire ceremony, watching as five fire drums illuminate the statue and the water below. It’s also a spectacular view at sunrise and sunset.

This iconic statue is not only famous for its beautiful setting, though. Visiting the Keeper of the Plains art allows visitors to explore an important cultural and historic site in Wichita. The land between the two rivers where the Keeper stands is sacred ground to the Native American people, and Bosin, a nationally recognized artist who considered Wichita home, designed the figure with hands raised in supplication to the Great Spirit to honor the area’s Indigenous people.

Visiting the Keeper

A group of kayakers rest near the base of the Keeper of the Plains on the Arkansas River

You can visit the Keeper of the Plains statue between 5 a.m. and midnight by crossing one of two footbridges from each side of the river. The statue and the surrounding Keeper of the Plains Plaza are free and accessible and include exhibits detailing the customs and traditions of the Plains Indians.

If you’re visiting during the day, you can enter the plaza from the Mid-America All-Indian Museum. In this ticketed museum, you can learn more about Keeper of the Plains’ history as well as the artist and many other American Indian art and cultural artifacts.

Another way to see the Keeper is from the Arkansas River, on a kayak tour, or a watercraft rented from Boats and Bikes.

Seeing the Ring of Fire

Keeper_Sunset_Ring of Fire

Without crossing the Keeper of the Plains bridge, you can witness the Ring of Fire ritual from many excellent vantage points. For the ceremony, the five fire drums surrounding the statue are lit, and they burn for 15 minutes to symbolize the completion of the sacred hoop of the four elements of earth, air, water and fire.

The Keeper of the Plains fire schedule is as follows: Daylight Savings Time (Spring/Summer) 9-9:15 p.m. and Standard Time (Fall/Winter) 7-7:15 p.m. Remember that the nightly event lasts just 15 minutes and may be canceled due to high winds, rain or other inclement conditions.

Celebrating 50 Years

People come from all over the world to see the weathered steel sculpture Bosin (1921-1980) donated to the city of Wichita in celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial, first displayed five decades ago in May 1974. Annually, powwows and other special events at the Keeper are organized by the Mid-America All-Indian Museum. A family-friendly festival commemorating the 50th anniversary, Party for the People, is scheduled for May 18, 2024.
Don’t miss a visit to the Keeper of the Plains. It’s a place where everyone–no matter their age or cultural background–can gather for peaceful and tranquil reflection while exploring Wichita’s Museums on the River.

Wichita Highlights