Minnesota museum to dismantle, burn sculpture inspired by 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota men
Officials of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis said Wednesday that Native American tribal leaders will oversee the dismantling of a gallows-like sculpture that reminded protesters of the mass hanging of 38 Dakota men in 1862.
The Dakota elders will then lead a ceremonial burning of the “Scaffold” sculpture near Fort Snelling. That’s where Dakota people were imprisoned after the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War that led to the executions in Mankato.
The decision was announced after a meeting that included the elders, Walker executive director Olga Viso, representatives of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and city government, and Los Angeles-based artist Sam Durant.
“These were acts of genocide, not something to be portrayed between a giant rooster and a cherry,” said Cheyenne St. John, a tribal historian for the Lower Sioux community, referring to other giant artworks in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The controversy over “Scaffold” has delayed the garden’s reopening after a reconstruction project until June 10.
Viso called the agreement “the first step for the Walker in a long process to rebuild trust” with Minnesota’s Native American communities.
“We’re grateful to the traditional Dakota leaders for their wisdom and patience in this process,” Viso said.
The two-story sculpture was inspired in part by the 1862 hanging, which was the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
“I just want to apologize for the trauma and suffering that my work has caused in the community,” said Durant, who promised never to re-create the Dakota gallows.
Dismantling the sculpture begins Friday and will take four days. A Native American-owned construction company is donating its services to take apart the sculpture, with Dakota spiritual leaders and elders overseeing.