San Francisco to remove divisive Native American statue after decades-long push from activists

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The San Francisco Board of Appeals voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove a controversial statue that activists say is “racist” and demeaning to Native Americans.

The “Early Days” statue, which was erected in 1894, depicts a fallen Native American man at the feet of a Spanish cowboy and a missionary. The statue is one of five that comprise the Pioneer Monument in San Francisco, which commemorates the settling of the state.

“This has been a tough 30-plus years. But this is wonderful,” Dee Dee Ybarra, an Ohlone tribal leader, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

{mosads}Native American activists have pushed for decades to have the statue removed, an effort that saw renewed energy amid the nationwide debate over Confederate monuments. Critics have long said the sculpture inappropriately celebrates the oppression of Native American people.

The board’s vote on Wednesday overturned a decision not to remove the monument earlier this year. The city’s Arts Commission originally proposed removing it after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., which unfolded around the proposed removal of a Confederate statue.

The appeals board sided in April with Frear Stephen Schmid, an attorney who filed an appeal challenging the Arts Commission’s proposal, which was also approved by the Historic Preservation Commission. But the board agreed to reconsider its decision after facing increased pressure.

Schmid, who argued that removing the statue would change the makeup of the larger monument, said he plans to take the case to state or federal court, according to the Chronicle. The statue could come down as soon as next week.

Earlier this year, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in an effort to recognize the “historic discrimination and violence” against Native Americans. 


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