UPDATE, 5:15 p.m. The San Francisco’s Arts Commission voted unanimously to remove the statue, following community outcry. Bay City News reports that while a few people spoke in favor of preserving the statue, dozens lined up to call for its removal, with many describing it as racist and glorifying genocide. But the battle isn’t over yet: The Historic Preservation Committee will also have to approve its removal, and money — ranging from $160,000 to $200,000 — will be required to physically take it down.
But the battle isn’t over yet: The Historic Preservation Committee will also have to approve its removal, and money — ranging from $160,000 to $200,000 — will have to be found in order to take it down.
The great monument and statue battles of 2017 may result in the removal of a statue here in San Francisco. Activists rallied at a San Francisco Arts Commission meeting Monday calling for the removal of one part of the Pioneer Monument, that multi-statue display between City Hall, the SF Public Library Main Branch, and the Asian Art Museum. In particular, they’re asking the removal of the monument’s depiction of a mostly unclothed Native American with a Spanish vaquero vanquishing him and a missionary trying to convert him.
The entire monument is a larger piece with five statues, and you’d probably recognize it more from the statue of Athena that sits atop. But the badly outdated, 1894-era characterization of Native Americans is prompting calls for the removal of the northeast section “Early Days.”
“The racist ‘Pioneer Statue’ promotes a white supremacist ideology that is connected to the mass genocide of indigenous people,” the group Take Down the ‘Pioneer’ Statue in San Francisco Now said in a release. “In reaction to seeing the call for removing racist statues nationwide, Individuals mass communicated the removal of the statue to their network of Natives and allies.”
The Native American would presumably have been a member of the Ohlone tribe, San Francisco’s true native population. “I am very upset by what the statue depicts. It implies that natives were subhuman and that their survival was due to their colonization by outsiders when in reality the natives had survived for thousands of years,” Ohlone Indian tribal citizen Dee Dee Manzanares Ybarra said in the release. “Changes need to be made by educating people of the true history. Natives taught the invaders how to survive on our land and instead of thanking them they were stripped of their land, languages and cultural traditions.”
San Francisco mayor Ed Lee is on record supporting the statue’s removal. “That symbol continues to be a symbol that bothers [Native Americans], and it bothers all of us if it bothers them,” Lee told KQED. Supervisor Jane Kim, in whose district the monument sits, has also called for its removal.