Prompted by the recent protests and demonstrations in the southern part of the United States calling for the removal of statues honoring Confederate leaders, a Facebook group is now demanding the removal of one of San Francisco's own racist statues, the Pioneer Monument.
The Pioneer Monument sits between the Main Branch of the San Francisco Library and the Asian Art Museum. Part of it, titled "Early Days," depicts a Spanish vaquero (cowboy) and a missionary standing over a fallen Native American.
Heather Knight tackles the issue in her San Francisco Chronicle column. Some history:
The monument was funded by the estate of financier James Lick and was made by sculptor Frank Happersberger. It was dedicated in 1894 outside the old City Hall at Hyde and Grove Streets. Though City Hall was destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906, the Pioneer Monument survived.
When plans for a new Main Library at the site were afoot in the early 1990s, preservationists wanted the Pioneer Monument to stay put while American Indians wanted it gone altogether. As usual, city officials pleased just about nobody by moving it to its current site. Just before its relocation, protesters threw rocks and red paint at it.
So this thing has been an issue for a while. Even famed Chron columnist Herb Caen wanted the monument torn down, claiming it "degrades the American Indian and good taste."
It would appear that every few years, new voices call for the removal of Pioneer Monument, including a 2007 report from the Bay Area Native American Taskforce that called for the statue to come down.
As a small concession, there is a nearly impossible-to-spot plaque upon the monument which attempts to explain that the statue is a super racist part of California history and not reflective of San Francisco's current values but lo these years later, people still want the Pioneer Monument gone completely. Jane Kim, District 6 Supervisor who's territory includes statue, agrees. "I support the removal and will be supporting the community process already underway," said Kim in a statement.
The Facebook group emboldened a dozen or so people to attend Monday's San Francisco Arts Commission meeting to get the wrecking ball rolling. The commission, however, pushed the issue back to its October 2 meeting. There is now a Facebook event listing called, "OCT 2 Bring down the 'Pioneer' Statue in Downtown SF! NOW!" It reads:
"Who is done with these white supremacist colonization states?
Who is tired of seeing Natives depicted as savage, less than, not here anymore or unworthy of being human?
Who wants to get rid of this white supremist [sic] statue right here in SF?
Then join us for our own agenda item on october 2, 2017 at 2pm at SF City Hall where the arts commission will be able to respond and vote on tearing down this statue! Come during public cmment to demand this "pioneer" statue be tore down as reccommended by the SF Human Rights Commission in 2007 in thier Report.
Whose coming with us?"
A Change.org petition also calls for the monument's removal.
Iesha Killip, a full-blooded American Indian Haight-Ashbury resident who finds the fact that such a statue still stands in San Francisco "crazy" told Knight, "Why is the Indian on the ground? We're warriors. We stand. It shows pure hatred to my people."