In October, the bronze statue depicting Christopher Columbus at Grand Park was completely hidden from view during Los Angeles’ inaugural celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day. Today it was announced that the statue will be permanently removed on Saturday, November 10.
Beginning at 8:30 a.m., Angelenos are invited to gather for “a news conference and removal of the statue […] near Stanley Mosk Courthouse between Hill Street and Grand Avenue” in DTLA, according to an email advisory released by the office of Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.
“It’s a natural next step of eliminating the false narrative that Columbus was a benign discoverer who helped make this country what it is,” O’Farrell says over the phone. “His statue and his image is really representative of someone who committed atrocities and helped initiate the greatest genocide ever recorded in human history, so the fact that his statue is coming down is the next step in the natural progression.”
However, there’s still work to do even after the Columbus statue is removed from its current home. To remove it is just the first step, says O’Farrell’s director of legislation, David Giron, who adds, “Removing it alone still keeps it in the civic arts portfolio of the county.”
O’Farrell wants the statue removed and deaccessioned. “This Saturday we’re removing the statue, but the question of deaccessioning it isn’t being handled yet,” Giron says over the phone.
After this weekend, the Columbus statue will be headed to storage and the question of deaccessioning it will be handled by the Board of Supervisors at a future date.
According to Giron, O’Farrell’s team along with the community and the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission (LANAIC), there have been talks from the beginning about whether a new statue should take its place, but nothing has been decided as yet. Again, that decision will be made by the Board of Supervisors and the L.A. County Arts Commission.
In a Facebook post, the Native American Indian Commission wrote about the removal of the Columbus statue: “It’s important that we use this moment to recognize and acknowledge the Yaavitam, the first people of this ancestral and unceded territory of Yaangna that we now know as downtown Los Angeles; we honor their elders, past and present, and the Yaavitam descendants who are part of the Gabrieleño Tongva and the Fernandeño Tataviam Nations.”
Vice-chair of LANAIC, Chrissie Castro, who has also played an integral role in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in the city, believes “this effort is one step [closer] toward a much broader agenda about lifting up the true history of the place we now call Los Angeles and pushing back against the erasure of Indigenous peoples.”
The removal is a major step in correcting history, said the chairman of LANAIC and Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. “By removing statues, street signs, and mascots that have disrespected Native people, the truth is allowed to rise.”
Other members of the L.A. community, including local artists and organizers who helped fight for the removal of the statue, expressed their thoughts on social media.
Artist, cultural organizer, and native Angeleno Joel Garcia, who has been working alongside the Native American Indian Commission as well as other folks to move forward with the removal of the statue, says he’s glad the statue is coming down but that he’s “not pleased with the process that took place.”
“It alienated the Indigenous community, there was a lack of transparency and dishonesty on the side of the county,” he writes via email. “Success for me and many others goes beyond the removal of the statue. For me, success would be for the county to establish a Decolonial Task Force to address other monuments such as this kind and the lack of equity, inclusion, and decision making for Indigenous people in L.A.”
Artist, activist, and Highland Park native Tanya Moroju Melendez, also known as Nena Soul Fly, also believes that certain other statues throughout L.A. should be removed as well. She felt the effort to hide the statue on Indigenous Peoples Day had dual ulterior motives—to protect the statue from vandalism and to “pacify” activists.
“The city of Los Angeles is home to the largest Indigenous population in the U.S. and they are still not seen,” Melendez says in an email. “We demand respect for this land and for respect for its original peoples. We demand our right to heal and for the truth to be told.”
A few days after the Indigenous Peoples Day celebration, Melendez says that she and other members of the Native American Indian Commission attended a meeting with the L.A. County Arts Commission and issued a final plea to remove the statue, and “with much determination and push we are here, now organizing a community celebration for its removal.”
UPDATE (9:40 p.m.) The story has been updated to reflect additional comments by the vice-chair and chairman of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission.
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