Sacred Red Rock departs Lawrence, going back to the Kaw Nation

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The Sacred Red Rock began its journey back to the Kaw Nation Wednesday morning.

The move followed a celebration Tuesday morning that drew hundreds in attendance, and a ceremony Wednesday morning that was closed to the public.

The massive red Siouxan quartzite boulder, Iⁿ ‘zhúje ‘waxóbe, holds deep historical, cultural and spiritual meaning to the Kaw Nation. It had been at Robinson Park near Lawrence City Hall since it was taken from its natural location at the intersection of the Shunganunga Creek and Kansas River near Tecumseh nearly a century ago. It was then turned into a monument that honored the majority white people who settled in the area. 

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 Memorial Heritage Park — land the Kaw Nation owns near Council Grove — to honor history and allow visitors to learn about it.

Project leaders, including James Pepper Henry, tribal vice chair of the Kaw Nation, Sydney Pursel, curator for public practice at Spencer Museum of Art, and Dave Loewenstein, local artist and community organizer, were present Wednesday to send the massive boulder on its way.

The process to get the boulder onto the flatbed took a little less than an hour and a half.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Pauline Sharp of the Kaw Nation holds a piece of red Siouxan quartzite boulder before it returns to the Kaw Nation, Aug. 30, 2023.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times A discarded cigarette releases a plume of smoke near the machinery used to lift the massive red Siouxan quartzite boulder.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Kaw Nation Tribal Vice Chair James Pepper Henry smiles as a crane prepares to lift In‘zhúje ‘waxóbe, Aug. 30, 2023.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times A crane hovers above an offering placed upon In‘zhúje ‘waxóbe, Aug. 30, 2023.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Onlookers watch as In‘zhúje ‘waxóbe is placed on a flatbed truck to be transported to land owned by the Kaw Nation.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Local artist Dave Loewenstein smiles as In‘zhúje ‘waxóbe is prepared for transport.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Sydney Pursel smiles as In‘zhúje ‘waxóbe is prepared for transport.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Bill Harper waves as he prepares to drive the truck carrying In‘zhúje ‘waxóbe to its home with the Kaw Nation, Aug. 30, 2023.

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Molly Adams / Lawrence Times A cameraman documenting the journey of In‘zhúje ‘waxóbe stands out the sunroof of a vehicle to film the Sacred Rock as it departs.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Robinson Park no longer displays stolen sacred Indigenous objects, Aug. 30, 2023.
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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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