MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A sculpture at the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden began getting dismantled Friday, marking the end of a week of protest from community members who said it was offensive to Native Americans.
The “Scaffold” is a two-story wooden structure that draws inspiration from Gallows throughout history, including the gallows that were used to hang 38 Dakota men in Mankato 155 years ago.
The process of taking the sculpture down was agreed upon in a closed-door meeting Wednesday between the Walker Art Center’s director, tribal elders, and the artist.
The structure never officially opened to the public, and the gathered crowd indicated gratitude for that.
Song, drums and chants began the opening ceremony to tear down the structure, a piece Walker Art Center officials did not consult native elders about before it went up.
“At one point in our history this has taken some very serious loved ones and taken their life,” Lower Sioux Reservation elder Sheldon Wolfchild said. “The sooner we remove the scaffold the sooner we get rid of negative energy.”
Following public outcry last week, the artist Sam Durant said, “It’s just wood and metal, nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people.”
As a native construction company cut down the wood, which will eventually be burned in a ceremony, onlookers cheered not just at the removal of a sculpture, but a reminder of a history they say they don’t ever again want portrayed as art.
“Them taking it down and being so willing to listen to us and what we wanted to do with it … it’s a good step in the right direction,” Caine Archambault said.
The dismantling process is expected to take four days.
WCCO was not allowed to film the entire start of that process, as it included a special ceremony by the elders to honor the lives lost by the gallows the Scaffold represents.
The Sculpture Garden reopening is rescheduled for June 10.