MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A new sculpture planned for a Native American burial site in western Michigan is being relocated after a tribe raised concerns it would disturb sacred ground.
Construction was already underway to place the 16-foot (4.9-meter) granite sculpture, “All My Relations,” at the entrance of the Old Indian Cemetery in Muskegon.
Members of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians recently advocated for a different location for the sculpture, which was crafted by Anishinaabe artist Jason Quigno.
“That cemetery in downtown Muskegon, to the Ottawa people is a sacred place,” said Joseph Genia, the cemetery’s caretaker for more than 30 years. “They’ve always considered it sacred grounds.”
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Placing a statue in the cemetery would ruin its integrity, he said.
The city, the Community Foundation for Muskegon County and other partners had received approval from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians on the sculpture’s location, said City Manager Frank Peterson.
“It was our understanding that everyone had been notified and everybody was on board, and it was a welcomed investment,” Peterson said.
Muskegon officials had already laid cement when the tribal leaders came forward with complaints. City planners immediately canceled the placement of the sculpture after receiving pushback.
City officials will remove the cement and restore the cemetery’s soil, according to Genia.
The contemporary sculpture with seven connected circles on each side of an obelisk wasn’t meant to cause conflict, Quigno said.
The circles “represent the seven grandfather teachings. There’s love, respect, honesty, bravery, truth, humility and wisdom,” he said. “The sculpture was supposed to be about honoring not only our ancestors — it was to honor . us Anishinaabe in this time and into the future.”
The sculpture’s new site is expected to be announced soon.