Controversial plaque will stay absent

Jordan Smith

The controversial plaque that was removed last semester from the Sylvan Theatre will remain absent.

The plaque was engraved with the story of a Sioux Indian woman who was in love with a white soldier. She learned that her tribe was planning to attack his troops so she warned him of the event. Her people discovered her betrayal and threw her in a lake.

“The story appeared to be presented as a true story,” said Director of Diversity Enhancement Jaime Nolan-Andrino.

Director of Tribal Outreach Richard Meyers said the story sounds like many typical narratives at the time the plaque was created. Many conquered groups have stories blaming the women as the reason for their defeat.

Meyers said that the inscription on the plaque seems “fraternity-like, there is no citation or reference to fact.”

The statue currently in the Sylvan Theatre is not the original statue.  It was discovered that the real statue was made out of a material not conducive to the outdoors. A possible plan is to now bring the original statue and plaque together at a time and in a location that will be decided in the future.

“The plaque was removed with the intention of keeping it as a part of SDSU’s history and will possibly be stored with the original statue it was put with,” Nolan-Andrino said.

According to Nolan-Andrino, a new plaque will eventually be put in, but the context of the plaque and the timeframe is now uncertain.  A plan, she said, will hopefully be in place sometime  this fall and will be shared when a definite plan is in place.

Right now it is about finding a group of scholars and community members to help decide what would be appropriate to go on the plaque.

Although Meyers recognizes that this is an issue predating his time at the university, he said that the whole issue is very controversial, and he hopes to be a part of the discussion group that determines a course of action for the new plaque that reflects its historical value.

“Protocol is being followed. Now it’s about getting the right people to help figure out an appropriate and respectful replacement for the plaque,” Nolan-Andrino said.

A suggestion was made to have a plaque simply stating “Wenona” which, according to Meyers means “firstborn daughter” in the Sioux Language.

“I feel that if the plaque was actually offensive to the Native Americans, then it was in the best interests to take the plaque down. However, since it is a legend, then it seems to be a good compromise to move the plaque to another location so it can still be viewed,” said Kinsey Gustafson, a junior journalism major from Sturgis.

It is now believed that the historical context of the plaque is not true, but the plaque will be retained as university history and presented in the correct context.