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The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

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Claire Heinritz is a sophomore at Free State High School and a reporter for journalism. At Free State, she is involved in girls golf and track. Outside of school, she likes to travel and hangout with family...

NEWS: The Sacred Red Rock: Return and Reconciliation

Iⁿ‘zhúje‘waxóbe, the Sacred Red Rock, rested in Lawrence’s Robinson Park for nearly a century before being returned to the Kaw Nation in an official ceremony this August
Gregory Mayhew
Prior to the relocation of the Sacred Red Rock, or In’zhje’waxóbe, to Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park, James Pepper Henry, a vice chairman of the Kaw nation, speaks at Buford M. Watson Jr. Park. The Return of In’zhje’waxóbe was celebrated on Aug. 29 to honor the rock, which was brought there in 1929 from the junction of the Shunganunga Creek and Kansas River to become a monument to the city’s early founders.

For nearly a century, a large red boulder rested affixed to a stone base and adorned with a plaque commemorating the white settlers of Lawrence, Kansas. Approximately 94 years later, less than a block away from its home north of 6th St. and adjacent to the Kaw River in Robinson Park, an official return ceremony was hosted for the 28-ton quartzite boulder that remains a sacred and previously unacknowledged object to the Kaw Nation.

Iⁿ‘zhúje‘waxóbe, or the Sacred Red Rock, was officially returned to the Kaw Nation in a public event hosted on Aug. 29 in Watson Park after an all majority vote from the Lawrence City Commission in 2021, followed by the ongoing Sacred Red Rock Project which combined efforts from the Kaw Nation, the University of Kansas as well as the City of Lawrence.

The event featured speakers Vice Chairman of the Kaw Nation James Pepper Henry, Mayor Lisa Larson, Governor Laura Kelly and others and included an official apology from Mayor Larson on behalf of the City of Lawrence and Douglas County.

In the morning of Aug. 29, Lawrence community members, city and state officials and members of the Kaw Nation poured out in attendance, believing in the broad-based significance of this event.

“It’s healing. Healing for both sides; for the settlers, the ancestors, their ancestors and our ancestors. It’s just a healing process,

Governor Laura Kelly discusses how she will participate in the Kaw Nation’s commemoration of the Sacred Red Rock, Íⁿ’zhúje’waxóbe. Seated to the right are Sydney Pursel, Lawrence City Commissioner Amber Sellers, Mayor Lisa Larsen and City Commissioner Courtney Shipley. (Gregory Mayhew)

it’s something that needed to be done,” Kaw Language Director and Teacher Desiree Storm Brave said.

The necessity of this event was clear in the presentation the speakers and participants of the event gave, with an emphasis placed on reconciliation of not only this incident of cultural disregard and violation, but the broader actions and effects that occurred within the history of our city and state.

Additionally, the appreciation the Lawrence community had for the event was clear as well as for many this provided relatively

new knowledge of the history of something they drive by on their daily commute. Others acknowledged the significance of this event as a part of a broader movement for reconciliation.

“This is a continuation… of that… we owe this. This is not anything special. This is duty,” long term community member Bianca Storlazzi said.

Storlazzi believes this to be a part of wider action that is and must continue to occur in attempts to reconcile a broader history.

With reconciliation comes an emphasis on growth for the future, as Mayor Larson emphasized in her speech outlining the goals the city and county are committed to in their current and future relationship with Indigenous groups.

Community member Kim Anspach points out that growth requires acknowledgment of both negative and positive history, and how we must look at and acknowledge the harm and good done by white settlers of our state.

“Really looking from a modern lens at what our history is and what our what our culture as Lawrence is, if we’re going to be free staters and we’re going to continue to make that legacy our identity, we’re going to have to reckon with what that really meant,” Anspach said.

About the Contributors
Simon Williams
Simon Williams, Online Managing Editor
Simon Williams is a junior at Free State and a reporter on staff. In school, she is apart of LINK Crew, NHS, and Speech and Debate where she serves on the NSDA Leadership Board. Outside of school, Simon enjoys volunteering, nature, outdoor activities, fashion, and travel.
Gregory Mayhew
Gregory Mayhew, Photographer
Gregory is a senior at Free state and is a photographer for Free state Journalism. Outside of school he likes being outdoors, playing volleyball, and trumpet.
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