Arcata, Ca., (KIEM)- The Arcata City Council voted to remove the statue of 25th President, William McKinley, from the plaza. The four to one vote comes after protest, and an official request for the removal from the Wiyot tribe.
“McKinley has been involved throughout his life in atrocities committed against indigenous peoples.” Chris Peters the President and CEO of Seventh Generation Fund explains. “Particularly in the Pacific.”
Famously, McKinley was an advocate for the concept of Manifest Destiny. Peters says he understands why some non-native people might have found McKinley a relatable character because of his championing that desire to go West. However, glorifying the man might be a misstep.
McKinley was responsible for the passage of the Dawes Act which effectively stripped land and rights from numerous Native American Nations. The bronze likeness of McKinley stands on what is historically Wiyot land. McKinley had no local connections.
“It’s an issue of racism.” Protesters said. Among them, Bernadette Smith who is a member of the Manchester Pointeria Band of Pomo Indians. “We live on the coast. The ocean. We’ve got to stick together.”
An activist, Smith believes more native people should be politically engaged. She saw McKinley’s statue for the first time Wednesday night. Smith sang a traditional song at a demonstration attended by dozens of marchers who moved on the plaza and appeared before city council.
Activists say they feel heard. The council took action, and earned respect according to Peters. But the road ahead is long. Mayor Sofia Periera explains, there’s no estimated timeline for McKinley’s removal. Environmental assessments need to be made, and funds set aside for the demolition.
Peters says he hopes this is a first step. “It’s 2018. We should be philosophizing about the future we want. We do not want our children playing under the statue of McKinley.” He says. He argues renaming McKinleyville should also be considered. “It has the same imagery of annihilation.”
To learn more about Seventh Generation Fund: http://www.7genfund.org/