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Monument to Forgiveness Returns to Oklahoma for Good After 13 Years

Matt Trotter

A 13-year, more than 800-mile journey ends in northeastern Oklahoma for a monument to forgiveness.

"Transformation Through Forgiveness," a 14-foot, two-ton bronze replica of Francis Jansen’s "Eagle Man," arrived at Northeastern State University in August 2011, but it went to the start of the Trail of Tears in Cherokee, N.C., in 2002.

It’s returned to NSU permanently, which Keetoowah Band Chief Joe Bunch said is appropriate.

"Education is the key to an enriched culture, and this monument of forgiveness will bring unity and not remind us of the past but remind us that there is a bright and progressive future ahead," Bunch said.

At Monday’s unveiling, NSU former first lady Pam Williams read from a letter she wrote to Jansen.

"Northeastern State University, the City of Tahlequah and the great Cherokee Nation stand ready to join you and others to find a way to bring a replica of the 'Transformation Through Forgiveness' back to our campus permanently," Williams said. "We had no idea we'd get the real thing."

The statue depicts a half-man, half-eagle figure on a turtle base. Jansen said the turtle represents Mother Earth.

"When man's inhumanity is portrayed on the surface of this planet, it stains her with blood stains. It's heavy," Jansen said. "And it's time that heaviness was lifted."

Jansen said the monument is a tribute to Native Americans and calls all people to reconciliation.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.