After a mediation held at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis on Wednesday, an agreement has been reached that will see Sam Durant’s Scaffold sculpture dismantled and burned, in a ceremony overseen by Dakota elders. The work, which references US state-sanctioned hangings, raised an outcry among Native American groups when it was installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden because of its recreation of a historic gallows used in 1862 to hang 38 Dakota men executed by the US Army in Mankato, Minnesota.
The agreement is “the first step for the Walker in a long process to rebuild trust with the Dakota and Native communities throughout Minnesota,” the museum’s director, Olga Viso, said at a press conference. “We’re grateful to the traditional Dakota leaders for their wisdom and patience in this process.”
According to a joint statement issued after the meeting:
“Sam Durant has committed to never create the Dakota gallows again. He commits to transferring the intellectual property rights of this work to the Dakota Oyate (people). The Walker Art Center agrees that it does not intend to construct this artwork again. Collectively the work will be dismantled during a ceremony beginning Friday, June 2 at 2 pm led by the Dakota Spiritual Leaders and Elders. It takes at least four days to remove the wood. It will be removed by a native construction company, and the wood will be placed in a fire pile near the remaining steel understructure with signage explaining the mutually agreed upon process until the wood is removed. This native construction company is donating their services, and in exchange the Walker has agreed to match that value to support travel for elders to the ceremony. The wood will be removed and taken to the Fort Snelling area, because of the historical significance of this site to the Dakota Oyate, where they will ceremonially burn the wood. The location logistics will be determined in a meeting with Steve Elliot, executive director of the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Spiritual and Traditional Dakota Elders The date of this ceremony will be announced as soon as it is confirmed. During the ongoing consultative process, the remaining understructure of steel and concrete will be removed, which should take several days. Because the Garden is still under construction, modification to the perimeter construction fence will be modified to allow space for the ceremony at the site of the artwork. Space will likely be limited, however the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will assure that there is adequate space for attendees to the ceremony on June 2. The existing signs that are near the artwork will remain until the entire structure and construction fence are removed. The Walker will collect and distribute the signs as requested by their creators. The grand opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden will be June 10.”