Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wiyot Tribe Votes to Remove McKinley Statue

Posted By on Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 4:00 PM

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Referring to U.S. President William McKinley's legacy of annexing indigenous lands within the continental United States and Hawaii, the Wiyot Tribe sent out a press release today in support of removing the McKinley statue from the Arcata Plaza. According to the release, the Wiyot Tribal Council voted unanimously Feb. 12 to support its removal, as well as that of a plaque on the nearby Jacoby Storehouse that refers euphemistically to "Indian trouble." The vote came in response to a request from the Arcata City Council, the Seventh Generation Fund and private citizens to weigh in on the issue.

The issue is set to go before the Arcata City Council again Feb. 21, following months of debate over whether or not to remove the landmark, which was placed on the plaza in 1906. Critics, citing McKinley's colonialist ambitions in the Spanish American War, have suggested a number of alternatives to the statue, which was erected during a period of national mourning after the 25th president's assassination. Suggestions have included a statue of the Virgin Mary, a Kinetic Sculpture and a statue-less gazebo or music pavilion. The Wiyot Tribe voted "to support replacement of the statue and plaque with something that represents Wiyot culture and/history."

You can read last year's cover story on the issue here.

From the Wiyot Tribe:

On Monday February 12, 2018 the Tribal Council of the Wiyot Tribe voted unanimously to support the movement to remove the McKinley Statue, and the plaque near Jacoby store from the Arcata Plaza. The Wiyot Tribe was asked by the City of Arcata, Seventh Generation Fund, and a number of individual citizens to weigh in on the issue. A movement to the remove the statue and plaque began with citizens of Arcata who petitioned the Arcata City Council. More than 1400 people have signed an online petition to remove the statue and plaque. A number of community meetings have been organized to discuss the statue and plaque removal and possible replacement options. In their Council meeting February 12th, the Wiyot Tribal Council voted to support replacement of the statue and plaque with something that represents Wiyot culture and/history. The Wiyot Tribal Council asked to be included in future discussions.

While William McKinley was the 25th president of the United States, he had no local connection with Humboldt County or the City of Arcata. The eight-foot-tall bronze statue was a gift to the city of Arcata from local businessman George Zehnder in the early 1900’s. The Wiyot Tribe would like to acknowledge McKinley’s impact on Indigenous communities. McKinley supported the Dawes Commission, dismantling the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole and Cherokee Tribal lands; checker boarding them into individual land allotments and designating “Surplus” lands and opening them up to white settlement. After failing to negotiate a treaty with the Aboriginal people of Hawaii, who were against annexation, McKinley was able to annex the State of Hawaii through a joint resolution of Congress calling it, “Manifest Destiny.” McKinley also refused to act when Leech Lake Ojibwe leaders petitioned him to intervene when Timber Companies encroached on Tribal lands to set grass fires and remove Timber from Tribal lands that the Ojibwe used for subsistence. 

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Linda Stansberry

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Linda Stansberry is a staff writer of the North Coast Journal.

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