Virginia Begins an American Indian Tribute

In less than two weeks, American Indians in Virginia will be receiving the respect and honor that is long past due. The Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Virginia Indian Tribute is on June 24th. The event will be hosted by the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission and the Virginia Capitol Foundation at 1000 Bank Street in Richmond, the state capitol, and will begin at 10:00 am.

The monument, entitled “Mantle,” will recognize the lasting legacy and the persistence of American Indians in Virginia. “Mantle” will not only deal with the hardships that American Indians have faced, it will reveal their contributions to the Commonwealth in a multitude of avenues that largely go unrecognized by mainstream culture.

The Monument

Alan Michelson, the designer of “Mantle,” is a New York based Mohawk artist who specializes in installation. Michelson’s work focuses on North American geography, history, and identity. “Mantle” combines four integrated spiral elements which create a Nautilus, a shell that represents strength, knowledge of the past, constant growth, and beauty. The monument will feature a communal center which honors the river culture of American Indians in Virginia. It will also have a circular waterfall, inscribed with the names of 20 rivers associated with American Indians across Virginia. The monument will be incorporating existing trees in the area as well as natural landscaping which will consist of perennial native plant species.

“Mantle” is intended to be a meditation space, where visitors can walk around or sit and contemplate. It will also be a spot where formal or informal groups will be allowed to gather. The monument is also intended to create a relationship with the surrounding natural world and promote positive values.

Billy Mills and the Groundbreaking Ceremony

Olympic Gold Medalist and Running Strong Spokesperson Billy Mills will speak at the groundbreaking ceremony. Mills won the Olympic Gold Medal of the 10,000 meter run during the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and is a member of the Oglala Lakota nation. Mills explained the importance of the monument an interview with Chris Saxman. Mills believes the monument has “far reaching capabilities” in terms of healing Americans and said it would play a “major, major role…not to divide us but to bring us together.”

Later in the interview Mills spoke broadly about how learning about our past, no matter how dark, and acknowledging these stories can help us as a country come to reconciliation. “We cannot eliminate the Doctrine of Discovery, we cannot eliminate treaties signed and treaties broken, we cannot eliminate slavery,” he said. “They’re a part of our past. Other countries are studying that part of our past. We need to study it. We need to come together, collectively. That monuments and other monuments collectively coming together, dialoguing based on truth. We choreograph the horizon of our future collectively.”

Mill’s closed the interview by stating “we are all related, so why not come together and choreograph collectively.”

The site on Capitol Square has been blessed according to Virginia Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar, who is also a member of the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission. Schaar also said that the commission hopes construction will be underway in the fall.

Join us for the groundbreaking ceremony on June 24 at 10:00 am. It will take place at at 1000 Bank Street in Richmond, Virginia.

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