Kaw Nation asks for return of sacred prayer rock

Mike Seals - December 13, 2020 11:27 pm

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Native American tribe is seeking the return of a prayer rock that was transformed into a monument honoring Kansas settlers.

Before the Kaw people were forcibly moved from Kansas to what is now Oklahoma in 1873, they held ceremonies and gathering before the 23-ton boulder known as the “Big Red Rock,” the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

As Lawrence prepared for its 75th anniversary in 1929, the rock was moved from a site at the confluence of the Kansas River and Shunganunga Creek that the tribe considered sacred to a park in town. It then was fitted with a plaque listing the names of the abolitionist settlers who founded the city.

A letter from the Kaw Nation says the intent is to bring the rock to Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park in Council Grove as part of a long-range goal to develop the site into an educational resource for all Kansans and visitors to learn about the state’s original inhabitants.

Kaw Nation Vice Chairman James Pepper Henry told the Journal-World that he thinks the appropriation of the rock as a city monument was part of the systematic erasure of the Kaw people from Kansas. However, he said he thinks attitudes have changed.

“I think it’s an opportunity for all of us involved to make something positive come out of this,” he said.

Vice Mayor Courtney Shipley said that in her mind the question is “how we are going to raise the funds to move it safely.”

 

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