This sphinx-like sculpture is a tribute to Shateyaronyah, a leader of the Native American Wyandot tribe. He was known as “Leatherlips” by settlers because when his word was given, it could be trusted—his words were as strong as leather.
The Wyandots had been decimated by disease and a disastrous war with the Five Nations of the Iroquois, and moved to Ohio territory from their original home near Lake Huron. Leatherlips served as a sachem of the Wyandot tribe in Ohio, and controversially encouraged maintaining peace with white settlers, even at the cost of losing native lands. Native Americans lost most of Ohio with the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, and Chief Leatherlips was among the signers—a stance that ultimately led to his death.
As white settlers moved into the Ohio Territory and began claiming Native land, a split of opinion developed between tribal leaders regarding what to do about it. Some sided with the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who did not sign the Treaty of Greenville. Others sided with Leatherlips, who advocated for cooperative coexistence despite the fact that the Wyandot people had been displaced and dispersed since the arrival of settlers on their land.
Leatherlips’ unpopular position divided the Wyandot. In 1810, a committee headed by his own brother sentenced him to death for witchcraft, though it was widely known the reason for his execution was political. Despite the protests of white settlers and their attempts to dissuade and bribe the executioners, Leatherlips was executed by tomahawk.
This limestone monument in the shape of Chief Leatherlips’ silhouette, erected in 1990, overlooks Scioto Park. Visitors can stand on the head of the ill-fated chief to look out on the very land that he signed over to the settlers.