Chief Leatherlips Sculpture
I’ve been meaning to write a post about this quirky monument in Dublin, Ohio for some time now–fortunately my new camera has given me an excuse to run around photographing just about everything. (Still learning the ins and outs, but really loving my new Fuji X-T2!)
The 12 foot tall sphinx-like sculpture was constructed out of stacked native limestone in Scioto Park in 1990, as a tribute to Native American Chief Shateyaronyah (known as Leatherlips among settlers).
Chief Leatherlips served as a sachem of the Wendat (Wyandot) tribe in Ohio. Leatherlips encouraged peace with white settlers, even at the cost of ceding Native lands, a position that would cost him his life.
This plays into the explanation that Touring Ohio offers up for the name white settlers used for him: “They called him Leatherlips because when his word was given, it could be trusted — his words were as strong as leather.”
But let’s back up and start with some context: As the population of the Eastern American colonies grew, conflicts with Native Americans increased, including in the Ohio Territory.
The British hoped the establishment of the Proclamation Line (1763), which ran down the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, would stop attacks by both Native Americans and American colonists. Ultimately, the threat of fines for settling past beyond the line could not stop expansion and settlers continued to move into Ohio.
Interestingly, a collective of tribes known as the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, expedited the settlement of Ohio. While the Haudenosaunee claimed ownership of hunting lands in Ohio, they did not actually control the land. Nevertheless, they signed away Ohio in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784, leading to the creation of the Northwest Territory (which became Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin) in 1787.
The Native Americans who did have valid claims to the land lost most of Ohio with the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. Leatherlips was among the signers of the treaty. The remaining lands were surrendered in 1807 with the signing of the Treaty of Maumee Rapids.
As Native Americans lost land and more Americans entered the Ohio Territory, a split of opinion developed among Native Americans as to what to do about it. Some sided with Tecumseh, who did not sign the Treaty of Greenville, and others with Leatherlips, who did not want further hostilities and wanted peaceful co-existence.
This stance ultimately led to Leatherlips’s death. His unpopular position was dividing Wendat tribes. His tribe trumped up charges of practicing witchcraft and convicted him in 1810. Despite the efforts of white settlers to dissuade or even bribe the executioners, Leatherlips was promptly executed by his people.
Within a quarter century, his people were the last tribe removed from Ohio and placed on reservations in Kansas and Oklahoma.
While this sculpture serves as a tribute to the great Wendat leader, his legacy lives on with the “Curse of Leatherlips“, which supposedly plagues the golfers who play at Dublin’s annual PGA Memorial Tournament. Seems a little farfetched, but I can respect a ghost who screws with golfers!
The sculpture’s placement on the hillside allows you to walk up into the head, look out over the park, and pose for photos (my “model” is oozing enthusiasm, I know).
Visit the Chief Leatherlips sculpture at Scioto Park:
Address: 7377 Riverside Dr., Dublin, OH
Hours: open during park hours, dawn to dusk
The park sits on the banks of the Scioto River. There’s river access, a picnic area, playground, and plenty of parking.