Statue a tribute to Indian chief who's said to haunt a Columbus suburb

Why does it always seem to rain during the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, each year? According to urban legend, it’s the curse of Shateyahronya, a Wyandot Native American chief who died in the area in 1810.

Nicknamed Leatherlips because he always kept his word, the leader signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, surrendering native land to white settlers. Angered by his actions, a group of Native Americans, including Leatherlips’ brother, Roundhead, condemned him to death on charges of witchcraft.

Years later, when Leatherlips’ grave was upgraded from a pile of rocks to a proper monument (still standing at the corner of Stratford Avenue and Riverside Drive), his remains were accidentally uncovered.

“That’s when the rumors started about the curse,” historian Jim Thompson said in an interview with WOSU’s “Columbus Neighborhoods.”

Leatherlips otherwise brings joy to Dublin residents through a 12-foot limestone sculpture in Scioto Park. Designed by Boston artist Ralph Helmick to resemble the chief’s head and hair, the piece was installed in 1990. It was Dublin Arts Council’s inaugural project for the Dublin Art in Public Places program.

“I wanted to make a sculpture that wasn’t just an object, but that was also a place, that is something you could look at but also, perhaps, enter into,” Helmick said.

Indeed, visitors can climb into the rear of the sculpture and look down over the Scioto River. The community’s engagement with the piece can be seen on social media. And in 2010, Dublin Coffman High School students performed an original play, “Leatherlips: Twin Clouds,” at the monument.

“I think it’s a very approachable piece,” said Dublin Arts Council Executive Director David Guion. “It’s easy to understand. It’s a clear depiction of a historical figure. … People speak highly of it still today in terms of just a great representation of what public art can be in the community.”

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