San Francisco votes to remove demeaning statue of Native Americans

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The Golden Gate Bridge rises above a neighborhood of tightly packed homes in the Richmond District in San Francisco, California, U.S. on March 27, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo

The city of San Francisco has decided to take down a controversial statue that depicts Native Americans in a demeaning fashion, following a unanimous vote by the city’s Arts Commission Monday.

The bronze statue, called “Early Days,” is located near the San Francisco City Hall and depicts a Native American man sitting at the feet of Sir Francis Drake and a Catholic missionary Junipero Serra.

San Francisco’s decision to remove the statue was met with cheers of support from the public, as the city joins the cause of removing old statues that are no longer in accordance with contemporary political and cultural tastes.

The statue of the three figures is part of the larger bronze and granite Pioneer Monument located between the city’s Main Public Library and the Asian Arts Museum.

According to the commission’s decision, the statue will be placed into storage, with the possibility of putting it in a museum one day.

The statue’s removal has been subject of discussion for decades, but the move gained more attention and momentum last year following the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“It definitely feels like a long time coming,” said Barbara Mumby, an Arts Commission employee who descended from Native American tribes. “I think some people may not understand how big of a symbol it is to be able to take this down.”

“There have been lots of conversations about appropriate representation of monuments in the public realm,” said Tom DeCaigny, the director of cultural affairs for the Arts Commission, adding that some people have said that removing monuments and statues is a way of trying to revise history or forget it.

“I would argue quite the opposite,” he said. “This is us recognizing history and the evolution of history and doing the right thing on the right side of history.”

In January San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors also voted to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day.