The controversial statue that critics have deemed as “San Francisco’s monument to white supremacy” is coming off its pedestal.
The bronze statue that shows a partially clothed Native American man at the feet of two men — a cowboy and a Catholic missionary — will be plucked from its prominent location in San Francisco in a process that begins in coming weeks.
To its critics, the bronze statue called “Early Days” is an offensive and condescending depiction of Native Americans that fails to acknowledge racism, colonization and genocide.
And this week, the San Francisco Arts Commission unanimously agreed to remove “Early Days” from the city’s Pioneer Monument, which contains a cluster of five statues.
“This racist and disrespectful sculpture has no place in the heart of our city,” the commission said in a statement.
Efforts to remove “Early Days” started in the 1990s when the group of statues were being moved to construct a new main library. Some Native Americans wanted the whole monument and especially “Early Days” gone. Instead, the statues along with “Early Days” were moved to their current location with a new plaque that explained the history of what happened to California’s Native Americans.
“This plaque has been covered up by plants for many years, and does not offer an explanation of the historical context of these racist images, and does not extend any apology for the theft of land, colonization, subjugation, and near-annihilation of Native American people,” according to the “Take Down the Pioneer Statue” Facebook group that has sought to get rid of the statue.
The controversy resurfaced last year over the uproar over Confederate monuments in the South. Almost immediately after the events in Charlottesville in August, the San Francisco Arts Commission began receiving public requests to remove “Early Days.”
The statue is to be taken down and placed in storage with an estimated cost of $160,000 to $200,000. A plaque will be placed near where it once stood explaining why it has been taken down, according to the Arts Commission.
“It’s important for us to respect and honor the original inhabitants of this land and to remember that they remain a part of our community today and their voices deserve to be heard,” said Tom DeCaigny, the commission’s director of cultural affairs, in a statement.
Some commenters on the commission’s Facebook page criticized the decision as censorship and political correctness taken too far.
“Early Days” was created by California artist Frank Happersberger who completed the Pioneer Monument in 1894. The work was to pay tribute to California’s history including the early settlement of the mission.