The controversial 'Scaffold' sculpture will be taken apart and burned

There will be a ceremony led by Dakota elders.
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The controversial "Scaffold" structure that was supposed to be at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden when it reopens next month will be taken apart and burned in a ceremony.

That's the decision Dakota tribal elders, the Walker Art Center, city officials, and sculptor Sam Durant came to after a mediation session about the future of the "Scaffold" structure.

The structure depicts seven sets of gallows that were used in state-sponsored executions in the U.S. between 1859 and 2006, including when 38 Dakota men were killed in Mankato in 1862 following the U.S.-Dakota War – the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

Over the weekend, demonstrators called for the structure's removal, saying it was insensitive and it trivializes genocide – especially because it was installed without consulting the Dakota themselves.

The Walker said it would take it down, prompting the long-awaited reopening of the Sculpture Garden to be pushed back to June 10. But officials still had to figure out how to proceed with dismantling "Scaffold."

That's what Wednesday's meeting was about. They decided "Scaffold" will be taken apart during a ceremony led by the Dakota Spiritual Leaders and Elders starting Friday at 2 p.m. A native construction company will remove the wood, with the process expected to take at least four days.

The wood will be brought to the Fort Snelling area, which is where Dakota people were imprisoned following the U.S.-Dakota War. There will be a ceremony to burn the wood, but details on when that'll be will be announced later.

Durant also promised never to create the gallows again, and will transfer the intellectual property rights of his work to the Dakota people. The Walker Art Center also said it wouldn't construct the structure again.

What the artist said about it

Sam Durant is a sculptor based in Los Angeles who has also done other artworks inspired by conflicts between native tribes and the U.S.

He completed “Scaffold” in 2012 and it was exhibited in the United Kingdom then.

In a statement released by the Walker Monday, Durant said “Scaffold” opens the difficult history of the U.S. criminal justice system and its racial dimension, “from lynchings to mass incarceration to capital punishment.”

Durant says he made it “…for people like me, white people who have not suffered the effects of a white supremacist society and who may not consciously know that it exists.”

But he said the protests helped him see that he failed to understand what including the Dakota 38 in the sculpture would mean to the Dakota people.

“I offer my deepest apologies for my thoughtlessness,” Durant wrote. “I should have reached out to the Dakota community the moment I knew that the sculpture would be exhibited at the Walker Art Center in proximity to Mankato.”

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