The unusual nickname, “Leatherlips” sounds more like a third-grade playground insult than a show of respect. But for the early settlers of Ohio, who were in constant conflict with Native Americans, Chief Shateyaronyah was a man to be trusted. The Wyandot Chief was a friend to Indian and frontiersman alike, and because he never broke a promise, the settlers called him Chief Leatherlips.
The Dublin, Ohio Arts Council commissioned this sculpture as a memorial honoring Chief Leatherlips and his contributions to both Ohio settlers and Native Americans. We discovered this limestone portrait recently while passing through Ohio. The combination of the ancient stone-stacking technique with simple, modern lines is reminiscent of the Sphinx in Egypt …
… (and the lesser known Sphinx of Riga).
In the early 1800s, Chief Leatherlips was a calm voice attempting to help both sides live peacefully. And while respect and trust for him ran deep in the pioneer community, a number of his fellow tribesmen thought that he was selling out, and giving away Indian lands. A few tribal chiefs banded together against him, conducted a mock trial, and then executed him.
America’s expansion into the West was successful, but in the process, the government’s treatment of the Native Americans was reprehensible. Memorials can never right the wrongs, but tributes to brave, historical figures like Chief Leatherlips demonstrate that the voice of reason was part of the dialog. If we’d only listened.
4. By Lansbricae via Wikimedia Commons