‘They never forgot their Grandfather’: Sacred Red Rock reunited with Kaw people, Kaw land

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Council Grove, Kansas — Nearly 400 people attended a rematriation celebration Saturday at the Sacred Red Rock’s new home: on Kaw land at Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park near Council Grove.

The park “was part of the last reservation the Kaw people had in Kansas before they were completely removed to Indian Territory,” said Sydney Pursel, citizen of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

In 2002, the Kaw Nation bought the 168 acres back and established the park.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Sydney Pursel

In addition to a dance arbor, the park will soon have restroom and shower facilities, an open-air welcome center, electricity and “traditional WiFi,” said James Pepper Henry, vice chair of the Kaw Nation. They’re also planning a prairie restoration project and a food sovereignty initiative for the park. The official grand opening of the park is expected next summer. 

Pursel told the audience the different names Iⁿ ‘zhúje ‘waxóbe has been called over the years: “Shunganunga Boulder, Founder’s Rock, Kaw Prayer Rock, The Big Red Rock, Sacred Red Rock, Iⁿ ‘zhúje ‘waxóbe, and Grandfather.”

“Iⁿ ‘zhúje ‘waxóbe” in the Kaw language basically translates to “Sacred Red Rock.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Iⁿ ‘zhúje ‘waxóbe now rests at Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park.

The massive red Siouxan quartzite boulder was deposited at the intersection of the Shunganunga Creek and Kansas River near Tecumseh by glaciers during the last ice age, Pursel said. It remained there for hundreds of thousands of years until 95 years ago when settler-Americans “were conspiring to move what they thought was a 10-ton boulder.” One group wanted to move it to the statehouse grounds in Topeka, but the other group successfully moved it first and relocated it to Robinson Park in Lawrence.

Iⁿ ‘zhúje ‘waxóbe was then appropriated into a monument with a plaque affixed to it to memorialize the the settler-Americans who established the town of Lawrence.

“Little was said in the newspapers about the original inhabitants of the area or what the stone meant to them,” Pursel said about the news coverage of the monumentalization of the boulder. “They did not talk about the [Kaw people], or their relationship with the rock since time immemorial, or the loss they must have felt.”

“The Kaw Nation always remembered,” Pursel said. “They never forgot their Grandfather, Iⁿ ‘zhúje ‘waxóbe.”

The city formally apologized for the theft of the boulder in March 2021 and pledged its return. The bronze plaque that had been affixed to it was removed last summer and is now at Watkins Museum of History in Lawrence. The Sacred Red Rock was removed from Robinson Park last August and placed in storage until it was moved to its new home in March

“Today we welcome home our Grandfather,” Pepper Henry said. 

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Jason Booker, president of Friends of Kaw Heritage, said, “It struck me earlier today, he’s moved further in the last 100 years than he did the last hundred thousand years.”
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Rhonda LeValdo is honored with a wool blanket during the rematriation celebration.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Storm Brave, Kaw Nation, is honored with a wool blanket during the rematriation celebration.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Toni Wheeler, Lawrence city attorney, is honored with a wool blanket during the rematriation celebration.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times The 1925 Monument to the “Unknown Kanza Warrior” is located in Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park.
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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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‘They never forgot their Grandfather’: Sacred Red Rock reunited with Kaw people, Kaw land

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Nearly 400 people attended a rematriation celebration Saturday at the Sacred Red Rock’s new home: on Kaw land at Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park near Council Grove.

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