Douglas County Commission to consider temporary signage in Robinson Park highlighting boulder’s importance to Kanza tribe

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

The Shunganunga boulder is pictured on Jan. 24, 2020. The boulder was once a sacred prayer rock for the Kanza tribe.

A local group may soon place signs in Robinson Park to highlight how a boulder in the park is sacred to the Kanza tribe.

The Douglas County Commission during its regular meeting on Wednesday will consider the group’s request to place the temporary signs in the park. The request for new signage is part of the local project “Between the Rock and a Hard Place,” which aims to increase interest in the park and the boulder and to tell a more complete story about its past.

Background:

Jan. 25, 2020 — Project takes on sacred Kanza prayer rock that Lawrence made into monument to settlers

According to a memo to the commissioners, the group plans to place three temporary signs in the park by the end of the month. The signs pose questions to raise awareness of the boulder’s significance to the Kanza tribe and examine whether the park’s name — in honor of Charles Robinson, the first governor of Kansas — should be changed. The signs also include the address for the project’s website, robinsonpark1929.com.

The memo notes that the City of Lawrence has given the project’s request for temporary signage tentative approval, but needs the County Commission to sign off on the plans. Although the park is maintained by the City of Lawrence, it is owned by Douglas County.

Robinson Park, which is at the southern edge of the Kansas River bridge near downtown Lawrence, is home to a 23-ton red quartzite boulder that was sacred to the Kanza tribe, but was made into a monument honoring Kansas settlers, as the Journal-World reported. Despite being sacred to the tribe, the monument does not include any reference to the tribe.

In January, the project’s co-leaders, Pauline Sharp and Dave Loewenstein, told the Journal-World they were not proposing any specific action for the park or the monument just yet, but hoped to educate people about the boulder’s history.

“We’re not trying to steer anybody in one direction or another; we’re starting out with education and will just see where it goes,” Sharp said at the time.

In other business, the commissioners will meet for a work session to hear a presentation on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on arts and culture organizations in Douglas County.

According to a memo to commissioners, the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas and Watkins Museum of History both received COVID-19 relief funding from the National Endowment for Humanities, for a total of about $225,000. However, none of the arts organizations in Douglas County received relief funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, despite having the highest concentration of arts organizations in the state.

The County Commission will meet Wednesday through an online video conference at 4 p.m. for the work session and 5:30 p.m. for the regular business meeting. The meetings will be open to the walk-in public at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., but a link for the public to watch live online is available on the county’s website, douglascountyks.org. Residents may also call in and listen by phone by dialing 1-312-626-6799 and entering meeting ID 997-4505-8602.

Full audio from the meeting will continue to be posted on the county’s website, as usual. The meeting’s full agenda may also be found on the county’s website.


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