- Associated Press
Monday, January 27, 2020

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - An effort is underway to more fully tell the story of a boulder that was a sacred prayer rock for a Native American tribe before it was moved to Lawrence and inscribed with the names of the city’s founders.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Pauline Eads Sharp, who serves as secretary and treasurer of the Kanza Heritage Society, and Lawrence artist Dave Loewenstein are leading a wide-ranging team of people, including historians, geologists, artists and filmmakers to increase interest in the 23-ton red quartzite Shunganunga boulder.


At issue is that there currently is no mention on the boulder-turned-monument of the Kanza tribe, which was forcibly removed to Oklahoma in 1873.

The approximately yearlong project, called Between the Rock and a Hard Place, will include research, community workshops and the creation of a documentary film and book. Participants also will propose potential improvements for the park where the boulder was moved to in 1929 so it could be made into a monument for Lawrence’s 75th anniversary celebration.

The unusual heist headed off a competing campaign by a Topeka man to bring the boulder, due in part to its spiritual importance to the Kanza, to the lawn of the Statehouse.

“The Lawrencians sneaked over in the night, had planned it out, and stole away with it, which was a great surprise to Topeka,” said Lawrence resident Dennis Domer, who has written about the history of the boulder. “I think there was some rivalry there. I don’t know what Topeka would have done with it, but it wouldn’t have been that much better than what Lawrence did to it.”

The boulder, which originally was located near Tecumseh, was fitted with a plaque listing the names of the abolitionist settlers who founded Lawrence. It reads in part: “To the pioneers of Kansas who in devotion to human freedom came into a wilderness, suffered hardships and faced dangers and death to found this state in righteousness.”

Domer noted the irony of dedicating the monument to settlers, when settlement is why the Kanza and other tribes were forced from their land.

“That’s our genuflection to history,” Domer said. “We just take it and change it and put our names on it, and we don’t have one wit of second thought about this at the time. If there were, they couldn’t come up at that time.”

The project is supported by a $20,000 grant from the Interchange, a program of the Mid-America Arts Alliance that is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project also received a $5,000 grant from the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund.


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