Historical monuments have been the topic of national debate recently, and San Francisco is no exception. For many, a statue at the Civic Center (which shows a conquering Vanquo and a missionary standing over a Native American) is insensitive to say the least. The sculpture is one of five bronze statues that make up the Pioneer Monument, an 800-ton shrine to the settling of California.
Racial justice advocates will be glad to know this statue is one step closer to being removed. The city Arts Commission already agreed to remove the sculpture at the base of the Pioneer Monument just east of City Hall. But the plan still needs the Preservation Commission’s sign-off.
The removal has been hotly debated for a while. The city installed a plaque in 1996 that describes the devastating impact of European colonization on native people. But many would like to see it removed all together.
During public comment, one San Franciscan had this to say: “It uplifts a white supremacist narrative and contributes to the erasure of Native American history. If history is written by the victors, then we want a rewrite.”
But others are hesitant to remove the statue, which was installed in 1894, for fear of erasing the past. “We have to confront the bad things that have happened in our history,” said commissioner Richard Johns, “If we try to hide them, then I think we will not be as vigilant.”
But both sides were ultimately satisfied with a proposal to add another plaque to the Pioneer Monument: one that will detail why it was removed. “Early Days” will be put in permanent storage after removal. The Arts commission is expected to make their final decision in March or April.