As visitors wend their way along the path, their movements evoke the circular dance formations found in American Indian cultures. Alan Michelson, a Mohawk member of Six Nations of the Grand River and an award-winning artist, was commissioned to create Mantle. Michelson described the monument, saying, "[Mantle] requires the visitor to neither look up nor look down, but invites one to enter—from the east—and participate in it. It is not conceived as a static monument to be venerated but an active one to be experienced by moving off the everyday grid and into the American Indian circle."
Mantle can serve as a meditation space where visitors choose to walk the labyrinth or sit and contemplate. It is also imagined as a gathering spot where groups can formally or informally assemble. As a communal area, Mantle creates a respectful relationship with the surrounding natural world, reflecting the positive values that set American Indians apart from others. Through state-of-the-art educational programs developed in partnership with scholars at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and other organizations, Mantle will educate the community by bringing them awareness of the history and cultures of the Virginia Indians, through a virtual web-based tour similar to one offered at the National Mall in Washington.