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Controversial Walker Art Center Sculpture Will Be Dismantled And Burned

Jun 1, 2017

Dakota leaders will oversee the dismantling of the controversial sculpture "Scaffold," beginning Friday. The gallows-like work then will be burned in a ceremony in the Fort Snelling area.

Dakota tribal elders will oversee the dismantling of the controversial sculpture “Scaffold” beginning Friday, then hold a ceremonial burning of the wooden timbers of what once was envisioned as a cornerstone of the renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

That plan, proposed by a Dakota committee, was announced Wednesday after a three-hour meeting with Walker Art Center Executive Director Olga Viso, Minneapolis city leaders and the work’s creator, Sam Durant.

The Dakota people and their allies say “Scaffold” — based in part on the design of the gallows used to execute 38 Dakota men in Mankato in 1862 — is not art, and represents a painful history that Minnesotans have long ignored.

“These were acts of genocide, not something to be portrayed between a giant rooster and a cherry,” said Cheyenne St. John, tribal historian for the Lower Sioux community, northwest of Mankato.

Viso called the agreement “the first step for the Walker in a long process to rebuild trust with the Dakota and Native communities throughout Minnesota. We’re grateful to the Dakota leaders for their wisdom and patience.”

The dispute has delayed the reopening of the garden, a joint effort by the Walker, which owns the art, and the Park Board, which owns the land. It was scheduled for Saturday but postponed until June 10.

“Scaffold” was funded by private money, and no public funds will be used for its dismantling, said Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller.

An American Indian-owned construction firm will begin taking apart the work at 2 p.m. Friday, overseen by Dakota spiritual leaders and elders. The company is donating its services. The work is expected to take about four days.