MINNEAPOLIS — The remains of “Scaffold,” a sculpture that prompted outrage among Native Americans this summer when it was placed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, will be buried in a secret location in Minnesota, according to Ron Leith, a Dakota representative.
Protesters converged on the site, which sits on former Dakota land, demanding the sculpture’s removal. After discussions with the Walker Art Center, which operates the garden and had purchased and installed the work, the sculpture was dismantled and put in storage. The artist, Sam Durant, gave the Dakota people the copyright to the work, and the Walker’s director, Olga Viso, apologized for not having reached out to the Native American group earlier in the process.
There had been some thought of burning the wood from the sculpture, but that plan was rejected because Dakota tradition discourages using fire for destruction, the representative said.
“You cannot use fire to destroy anything,” said Mr. Leith, the representative for a council of Native American elders that was formed in response to the sculpture issue. “People do that all the time, but in our tradition once a fire is lit, it’s sacred; it has a life of its own.”
The council was established after the “Scaffold” controversy to work with the Walker on improving relationships, and had agreed to decide what to do with the wood by Oct. 31.
Mr. Leith said other Dakota groups in Minnesota had been consulted, but the decision to move the wood was ultimately made by Arvol Looking Horse, a Dakota spiritual elder. Mr. Leith said the elder had given him two requirements: that the wood be kept in an undisclosed location, and that it not be burned.
Tom LaBlanc of the Sisseton-Wahpeton band of Dakota said a majority of the council members had agreed that burying the wood was a step toward healing. “What to do since has been a dilemma, but we wanted to do something positive with this negative,” he said.
Stephanie Hope Smith, a mediator who has been working with the Walker and Dakota leaders, said an official announcement of the plan will be made later. A statement from the museum said that “the Walker continues to be in discussion with representatives of the Dakota community and we respect their decisions regarding the wood.”
Ms. Viso has previously spoken at length about the museum’s role in the sculpture controversy.
“Sam Durant’s ‘Scaffold’ examines numerous events and injustices against diverse cultures spanning a century and a half of U.S. history,” she said recently. “This is why we did not single out individual communities for outreach, which in hindsight was a misstep that I have publicly acknowledged.”