You can’t help but see the big red rock in the park in downtown Kansas City. But, it does not belong there.
Finally, the Kaw tribe has restored the stone, which they consider a sacred altar.
More than 20 tons of quartzite stone is currently on its way to the tribe, hoping to strengthen the strained relations between the Kaw, or the Kanza, the people and the state that confiscated their land and the sacred rock.
“There’s a little bit of a melancholy feeling that I have when I see it,” stated the vice-chairman of the Kaw Nation, James Pepper Henry. “It’s a reminder to us as Kaw people of what has been taken from us.”
The story of the stone is considered a representation of the difficult history of what is now known as Kansas. It talks about what the nation views as an attack and genocide somehow.
When the massive force of a glacier hit billion-and-half-year-old quartzite bedrock in the northern plains, the rock fractured, it shifted, but it did not collapse. Instead, the glacier razed south to what’s now Kansas around 700,000 years previously.
“Less resistant rocks were just ground to dust,” stated an associate professor of geology at the University of Kansas. “It’s a survivor. It’s hard and resilient, and here it is.”
It is currently located in a small park surrounded by busy roads and Kansas, or Kaw, River.
This stone is sacred to the Kaw people, like Pepper Henry. His uncle first showed him a stone Kanza called Íⁿ’zhúje’waxóbe about thirty years ago, and he remembers his first look at it.
“I got goosebumps because, just the scale of it. But I knew how important it was to our people,” he stated. “I could feel the presence of it. And this rock, it had a long journey from where it came from. It’s not from these parts.”
Pepper Henry lives in Oklahoma. His ancestors Kaw roamed the part of the country known as Kansas, hunting buffalo for centuries. But state power forced them to be displaced from the land, evicting the tribe from their original home to the south of Oklahoma in the 1870s.
“Most people in Kansas don’t know that the state is named after a group of people native American tribe, the Kanza,” stated Pepper Henry. “We’ve been virtually erased from Kansas, and we’re invisible to most people here.”
Two or three years earlier, a tribal leader and a few activists in Lawrence began to intensify efforts to restore the stone to the Kaw tribe. KU Director of the Center for Indigenous Research and Science, Jay Johnson, said Lawrence boosters pulling a stone in the city knew they were holding an important to the Kanza community.
“They took it, and they reappropriated it,” he stated. “And now the descendants and communities leaders have said, ‘You know what? We should give this back, and we should apologize.'”
Last year, the city returned it to the people of Kanza and officially apologized for its capture. But Íⁿ’zhúje’waxóbe weighs 23 tons or perhaps 30 tons. So, moving it will not be easy.
Johnson said the time is just about right. Public outcry over the importance of ancient images and landmarks brought to the fore after the murder of George Floyd has intensified efforts to hand back the stone.
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