Return of the Rock event coming up; City of Lawrence asks public to respect privacy of other events

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Post updated at 8:13 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19:

Partners working on the Sacred Red Rock project will host a public sendoff for the boulder as it will soon be returned to the Kaw Nation.

Crews on Monday removed Iⁿ ‘zhúje ‘waxóbe, the massive red Siouxan quartzite boulder, from its base in preparation for the move.

A plaque revering white settlers has also been removed from the boulder and will become part of a Watkins Museum of History exhibit.

The base will soon be disassembled, with smaller rocks removed and placed in bags so they can move with the boulder to Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park, land the Kaw Nation owns near Council Grove.

The Return of the Rock event is set to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29 in Watson Park, 727 Kentucky St. This will be the only public event in the process, according to a Thursday news release from the City of Lawrence.

The event will be led by Master of Ceremonies Sydney Pursel, and it will feature speeches by the Kaw Nation Tribal Chair, Mayor Lisa Larsen, James Pepper Henry, the vice-chairman of the Kaw Nation, and others, according to Cori Wallace, a spokesperson for the city.

“It will include a drum honor song and a prayer by a Kaw Nation elder. It will conclude with an invitation to move into the park for friendship dances,” Wallace said via email Saturday.

“All other events are closed due to their sacred nature,” according to the city’s news release. “We ask that both media and observers respect the privacy of the Kaw Nation.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times The Sacred Red Rock, removed from its base, lies on its side, Aug. 17, 2023 at Robinson Park in Lawrence.

The city encourages the public to attend and use the Vermont Street Parking Garage and street parking in the area.

The Sacred Red Rock holds deep historical, cultural and spiritual meaning to the Kaw Nation. The city formally apologized for the theft of the boulder in March 2021 and pledged its return.

The Mellon Foundation in spring 2022 announced a $5 million grant to assist with the project, which includes moving the boulder. The majority of the grant money, though, will be used to develop infrastructure with educational visuals situated with the sacred rock at Allegawaho to honor history and allow visitors to learn about it.

Here’s a map the city provided of the return event setup:

Read more about the project in the links below.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times The Sacred Red Rock, removed from its base, lies on its side, Aug. 17, 2023 at Robinson Park in Lawrence.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
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Molly Adams (she/her), photojournalist and news operations coordinator for The Lawrence Times, can be reached at molly (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Check out more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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