RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Amid the hustle and bustle of Virginia’s capital city there’s a new place to pause and reflect.
On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam, the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission and the Virginia Capitol Foundation held a dedication ceremony for Mantle.
Mantle is the new tribute to the commonwealth’s Indian tribes that has been nine years in the making.
Virginia has 11 state-recognized Indian tribes. Several members were present to see the vision become a reality.
“If you look around the Capitol grounds, you’ll see that the only dedication that’s taken place here for
Virginia Indians is happening today — even though the Virginia Indians have lived here for 10,000 years,” said Chief Emeritus Kenneth Adams of Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe.
Adams brought the lack of recognition to the attention of his local representative, Del. Chris Peace (R-Hanover), nearly a decade ago. Peace agreed and passed a resolution to get to work.
The Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission was established by the General Assembly and former
Gov. Tim Kaine in 2009 to install a permanent monument on Capitol Square to recognize the courage, determination and cultural values of Virginia’s Indians.
“It’s unlike anything that’s on State Capitol grounds,” said Peace. “It’s a labyrinth, which is very different than a maze. There’s only one way in and one way out. It allows people to have contemplative time, to meditate and to think about the world around them.”
Gov. Ralph Northam provided remarks at Tuesday’s ceremony and cut the ribbon, Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield — a member of the commission — read a poem to the crowd and the award-winning artist behind the project spoke about his vision for the piece.
Alan Michelson’s design was selected after a nationwide search. The New York-based artist is also a
Mohawk member of Six Nations of the Grand River.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Michelson.
He said the monument connects history with land. It includes Virginia stone, plants and water.
The water within the monument’s pool reflects the river culture existing within native tribes, and the names of the rivers are inscribed in the fountain.
“It’s really meant to be an experience,” said Michelson. “So they have the experience of getting off the sort of grid, every day grid, and walking up this little slope in a spiral motion.”
Michelson said the circular layout allows visitors to look forward while also looking back.
That’s something Adams hopes those who stop by take advantage of.
“I hope they feel the presence of our ancestors. The ancestors of Virginia Indians who are living here today. I hope everyone feels their presence and recognizes the accomplishments of them who’ve gone on before us,” he said.
Click HERE to read more about Mantle.
The monument was built through private donations raised by the Virginia Capitol Foundation.