Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild

Montana Memory: Re-Imagining the Delaney Sawmill TeePee Burner (2014/2015)

Kevin O'Dwyer (Ireland)

Height: 75 feet  Diameter at base: 45 feet​

Funded by the Tippet Rise Fund of the Sydney E. Frank Foundation,

Montana History Foundation

BLACKFOOT PATHWAYS: SCULPTURE IN THE WILD

Montana Memory: Re-Imagining the Delaney Sawmill TeePee Burner


Once so ubiquitous in Montana and the Northwest, the TeePee Burners were testaments of a once thriving timber industry. This iconic piece of industrial heritage has all but disappeared from the landscape and with it the cultural heritage of generations of community members. Re-Imagining the Delaney Sawmill TeePee Burner preserves one of the remaining Lincoln area landmarks and uses contemporary art practice to invoke community memories and transfer knowledge to future generations.


The Delaney & Sons sawmill located at Landers Fork was the largest and most modern sawmill in the Upper Blackfoot Valley. In 1965 the sawmill employed over 100 men during the peak summer period. Sadly the sawmill closed in 1971 and its machinery was removed. The TeePee Burner, which was used to burn wood refuse, was left on the landscape.


In 2014 I proposed to move the TeePee Burner into the sculpture park as part of a Montana Memory project celebrating the industrial heritage of the Upper Blackfoot Valley. During  numerous visits to the Lincoln area I collected stories from local residents who talked about the TeePee Burner glowing at night as it burned wood refuse 24/7 while the mill was operating. I proposed to re-create this memory using photovoltaic cells and LED lighting to reproduce the orange glow from the top of the Burner that residents remembered in the 1950's and 60's.


During September 2014 the TeePee Burner was dismantled and moved to the sculpture park. The base of the TeePee was rebuilt by community volunteers. April  2015 the remaining two sections of the TeePee Burner were hoisted and installed on the base. During June 2015 the LED lighting, photovoltaic cells (to power the LED lights), sensors and a battery system were installed to recreate the orange glow (community memory) for 2-3 hours each night.


September 2015 the black and white archival images were printed on steel plate and mounted on the interior of the TeePee Burner. The archival images are intended to tell the story of the logging industry in  the Upper Blackfoot Valley. The interior space (45 foot in diameter) can be used by the local community and visitors for education and performance opportunities.


Preservation demonstrates recognition of the necessity of the past and of the things that tell its story.