Former Site of Iⁿ‘zhúje‘waxóbe (Sacred Red Rock/Formerly Founder's Rock)
Iⁿ‘zhúje‘waxóbe, the Sacred Red Rock, has tremendous significance to the Kanza (Kaw), a Native American tribe with ancestral lands located in what is now known as eastern Kansas. In the 1920s, white residents of Topeka decided that they wanted the stone removed from its location at the junction of the Shunganunga Creek and Kansas River and placed near the state capital. Not to be outdone, businessmen in Lawrence decided to steal the boulder and place it in their city. And so, in the middle of the night, a sacred natural cultural item became the property of the city of Lawrence and was renamed "Founder's Rock." Iⁿ‘zhúje‘waxóbe remained in Lawrence until August of 2023, when it was returned to the Kaw.
Shunganunga Boulder is located in Robinson Park across from the City Hall.
Backstory and Context
Iⁿ‘zhúje‘waxóbe, also known as the Sacred Red Rock or the Shunganunga Boulder, has deep spiritual and cultural meaning to the Kaw people. Thousands of years ago, the boulder was carried on a glacier from what is now known as the Dakotas to Shunganunga Creek's intersection with the Kansas River. Historically, the rock has been on Kaw land and a sacred religious aspect of their culture for centuries, as it was used as a spiritual place for prayer, community, songs, and dance. The boulder was stolen from the Kaw Nation in 1929 and then formally dedicated as a monument for the founders and pioneers of Lawerence to celebrate the city's seventy-fifth anniversary. The rock was placed in Robinson Park and dedicated with a plaque that listed the names of original settlers and stated: "To the pioneers of Kansas who in devotion to human freedom came into a wilderness, suffered hardships and faced danger and death to found this state in righteousness."
After years of the Kaw Nation fighting for their ancestral rights, the Sacred Red Rock was finally returned to its community in late August 2023. Returning Iⁿ‘zhúje‘waxóbe to the Kaw took years, with long processes including resolutions with the city, work with researchers at the University of Kansas, a grant from the Mellon Foundation, and removal of the plaque. A formal ceremony took place on August 29, 2023, to commemorate the rightful return of the sacred boulder and to extend a public apology to the tribe. The Sacred Red Rock was then moved to tribal land by the Kaw.
Jay Senter, "Boulder, plaque pay homage to pioneers," Lawrence Journal-World. September 19, 2004.
Kendall, Dave. "A boulder’s journey: Lawrence monolith will be returned to the Kaw in thoughtful process," Kansas Reflector. May 1st, 2022. Accessed February 22nd, 2023. https://kansasreflector.com/2022/05/01/a-boulders-journey-lawrence-monolith-will-be-returned-to-the-kaw-in-thoughtful-process/.
Valverde, Rochelle. "New Project Takes on the Shunganunga Boulder," Between the Rock and a Hard Place. January 26th, 2020. Accessed September 15th, 2023. https://www.robinsonpark1929.com/news/new-project-takes-on-the-shunganunga-boulder.
Adams, Molly. "Return of the Rock event coming up; City of Lawrence asks public to respect privacy of other events," The Lawrence Times. August 17th, 2023. Accessed September 15th, 2023. https://lawrencekstimes.com/2023/08/17/return-red-rock-event-pre/.
"Sacred Red Rock Project," Accessed September 15th, 2023. https://sacredredrock.com/background-of-inzhujewaxobe/.