Wyandots Return For Statue Unveiling WYANDOTTE
- The drummers pounded a beat that stirred the hearts of many in the crowd by the river. Wyandot Nation of Kansas Wyandot Nation of Oklahoma
by Paula Evans Newman Heritage Newspapers
Hundreds of people from near and far of all ages and races joined together in the sacred circle to dance around the drummers.
It was a dance of honor and welcome, and many of those at BASF Waterfront Park wiped away tears of emotion before the day was over. Chief Steven Gronda of the Wyandot Anderdon Nation said he felt the spirits of his ancestors present.
For him and for the other descendants of Wyandotte's first settlers, the unveiling of artist Michaele Duffy Kramer's 12-foot bronze sculpture, "The Wyandots - A Family Tribute," was more than a homecoming.
It was an extremely moving" tribute to their heritage and a part of the "healing needed in order to go forward," Gronda said.
Chief Leaford Bearskin from the Wyandotte Tribe (sic. Nation) of Oklahoma told the onlookers that the words in the Wyandot language to express great joy translates in English to this: "My heart is full." "Today, my heart is bursting," he said.
Chief Janith English of the Wyandot Tribe (sic. Nation) of Kansas also spoke of joy. "Imagine if you were to go to the land of your ancestors and you were to see that the land had been beautifully and responsibly card for," she said. "That's what's in my heart today."
Grand Chief Wellie Picard of the Huronne Wendat Nation of Quebec and the other chiefs made proud presentations of gifts to city officials.
The chiefs and other Wyandots throughout the United States and Canada were invited by the city to take part in the unveiling of the statue that honors their ancestors. The idea for the statue first arose in 1997, when the Wyandotte Street Art Fair Committee decided to have a "millenium gift" created for the community. They wanted it to be a sculpture that was a tribute to the founders of the city - the Wyandots.
Kramer, a Port Huron artist, was chosen from the more than 40 sculptors who submitted project proposals. Giorgio Gikas, president of Venus Bronze Works Inc., was hired as a consultant to oversee the project.
Once she received the commission, Kramer, a history major in college, spent months researching her subjects.
"The story of the Wyandots became all encompassing for me," she said. She learned of their peaceful lives as hunters, anglers and farmers along the shores of Canada's Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and the Detroit River. "I chose to portray them in a happy moment surounded by the everyday elements that made up their world," Kramer said.
But the Wyandot history wasn't always filled with the peace and love that shine on the faces of the family depicted in the sculpture.
Beginning in the late 1700's the Wyandots lost their land in Migigan and Ohio, and were forced to head west and north.
"Our territory was ravaged by wars and unscrupulous land deals," Gronda said.
In February 1842, Wyandots in the Downriver area who hadn't escaped or gone to Canada were forcibly marched to Kansas [NOTE: Neither our oral nor written history includes accounts of Wyandots forcibly removed from Ohio, Michigan and Canada or that they were forced to walk to Kansas. According to Wheeler, the Wyandots left on July 10, 1843 not February of 1842 - a treaty was signed in Upper Sandusky Ohio, March 1 of 1842.
For a first person account of the Wyandot's removal to Kansas, read Lucy B. Armstrong and James Wheeler's accounts and Larry Hanck's chronology at www.wyandot.org The Wyandots traveled by two riverboats, the Nottaway and Republic on which they booked passage - it was reported by Wheeler that one Wyandot died along the way from drowning after falling overboard. If however there are documents that would authenticate the Wyandots removal by Federal troops and being forced to walk to Kansas, we would be very interested to see them and incorporate them in our archives].
Twenty years after that, their land in Kansas was taken away and they were forced to move to Oklahoma. [NOTE: The Wyandottes who moved to Oklahoma did so voluntarily]
Six generations later, Wyandotte Mayer Lawrence Stec took his place on the stage in the park by the river to offer a "warm welcome home" to the chiefs and "all members of the Wyandot Nation."
>this from Ishgooda<
NOTE: for those of you who were able to attend the gathering last summer, the sculptress, Ms. Kramer was there with us for our return to Midland, Ontario. some of you may remember her tall willowy form and shining eyes, a really pleasant person eager to listen and learn more about those she had been chosen to sculpt.
She did an exquisite job on the sculture. Fine detail and much dignity in the resulting bronze piece.
Would also like to respectfully make note that the allotment act, though apparently voluntary, was never explained to the people who chose to remain with the land in Kansas. Never explained that choosing the land meant in the eyes of the US, they would no longer be treated as sovereign, nor Indian under subsequent termination policies. Those who migrated to Oklahoma were termed "incompetent" to manage their own affairs, their continuation as wards of the US government therefore, a necessity. This split families, sometimes down the middle. Essentially those who had closer ties with the Methodist Missions remained in Kansas, those who did not moved on to "Indian" territory.
- The drummers pounded a beat that stirred the hearts of many in the crowd by the river.
Wyandot Nation of Kansas
Wyandot Nation of Oklahoma
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