Author Topic: Statue decolonization  (Read 4392 times)


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Re: Statue decolonization
« Reply #105 on: February 08, 2022, 08:23:50 pm »
The next targets have been spotted:

The U.S. Capitol Is Filled With Racist Depictions of Native Americans. It's Time for Them to Go
visitors to the Capitol will still encounter several 19th century paintings and sculptures that advocate cruelty and barbarism—against Native Americans.

One of these sculptures, carved in 1826-1827 by the Italian artist Enrico Causici, is a gruesome scene showing the explorer Daniel Boone stabbing a Native American warrior. Another warrior lies dead beneath their feet, filling the entire bottom of the rectangular panel. Soon after the work was installed, then-Rep. Tristam Burges, sarcastically commented that it “very truly represented our dealing with the Indians, for we had not left them even a place to die upon.”

The Boone panel is one of the first four sculptures made for the Capitol after it was rebuilt following its burning by the British in the War of 1812. The other sculptures show a Native American man offering corn to Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, Pocahontas saving John Smith, and William Penn shaking hands with a Native American to close a deal to exchange land for gifts. In 1842, then-Rep. Henry Wise claimed that Native Americans visiting the Capitol had observed how well these sculptures showed the history of relations between them and settlers: “We give you corn, you cheat us of our lands; we save your life, you take ours.”

These sculptures went up during the debates leading up to President Andrew Jackson’s 1830 “Indian Removal Act,” which expelled Native Americans from their lands east of the Mississippi River. The Congressmen who authorized forced marches in which thousands died, including the infamous “Trail of Tears,” thought their actions were justified because they believed either that Native Americans were so savage that they could never peacefully coexist with white Americans or that the inferior “Indian race” would quickly die out when faced with superior European settlers.

It’s no wonder the Congressmen believed these stereotypes, since they saw them in the sculptures decorating the Capitol. The Boone panel shows both at once: its warrior is wild-eyed, with a face twisted in a demonic grimace of hatred. But Boone’s face remains calm. Despite his opponent’s impressive muscles and the tomahawk raised over his head, Boone is confident that his superior nature will win the fight.

While serving in the House in 2019, now-Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, called for a review of the Capitol’s artwork to document its “racist stereotypes about Native Americans.” The Architect of the Capitol, the agency responsible for the Capitol’s art, put up a website listing some of the images of Native Americans in the building, but there have so far been no indications that any of these artworks will be removed. The project would indeed be complex, since Native American figures appear so often in the Capitol’s mid-19th century decorations, ranging from sculpted panels on the Rotunda’s doors, its paintings, including John Chapman’s 1840 “Baptism of Pocahontas,” the massive sculptures over the entrance to the Senate building, and even the clock keeping time in the House. In her book Art and Empire, scholar Vivien Green Fryd points out that these Native Americans, “relegated to shadows and borders,” are nearly always shown in powerless positions. They crouch, kneel, collapse, or sit in despairing contemplation of their children, symbolizing the imminent extinction of their kind.

Attorney Brett Chapman, a member of the Pawnee tribe and descendent of Chief Standing Bear, pointed me to a section of the painted frieze circling the Rotunda. The frieze shows the 1813 death of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, who formed intertribal coalitions to fight the settlers. Tecumseh is shown crumpled to the ground below his killer, Richard Mentor Johnson (who would later serve as vice president under Martin Van Buren), who rides a triumphantly rearing horse. Chapman asked me to imagine if the frieze instead showed “Martin Luther King with a gunshot wound to his head, with the murderer standing right over him.” For Chapman, celebrating the death of King or Tecumseh is “the same thing”: a glorification of the oppression of Americans of color.
That’s what Horatio Greenough showed in his massive 1850 sculpture “Rescue,” installed outside the Capitol Building’s eastern entrance. Greenough used plaster casts of skulls lent to him by the artist John Chapman, who had obtained them for his Rotunda painting of the baptism of Pocahontas. Greenough’s sculpture, which shows a settler triumphing over a dying Native American warrior, was praised by critics for, as one of them put it in 1851, showing “the ferocious and destructive instinct of the savage, and his easy subjugation under the superior manhood of the new colonist.” Another complimented the way the settler’s “rebuking force is a shade saddened and softened by the melancholy thought of the necessary extinction of the poor savage, whose nature is irreconcilable with society.”

But you won’t see “Rescue” on a Capitol tour today. In 1939, a joint resolution of Congress called for the sculpture to be “ground into dust” and “scattered to the four winds” so that it would not be a “constant reminder to our American Indian citizens” about the cruel process of Western expansion. In 1941, a similar joint resolution called “Rescue” “an atrocious distortion of the facts of American history and a gratuitous insult” to Native Americans. While neither these resolutions nor protests by Indigenous groups had any official result, “Rescue” was put in storage in 1958, supposedly to protect it during construction work on the building. But it was never returned to the Capitol – and in 1976, a crane dropped “Rescue” as it was moving it to a new storage area. Its fragments linger in a government warehouse.

“Rescue” may have been one of the most bloodthirsty, and was certainly the largest single example, of a 19th century Capitol artwork based on the idea that Native Americans were fundamentally inferior to white Americans.
when I asked Mike Forcia, chairman of the American Indian Movement’s chapter in the Twin Cities, Minn., if he thought adding new images to the Capitol to honor Native Americans was enough to make up for the derogatory ones, he said no. “They should be taken down from their place of honor,” he said. “It’s time to come clean.”