A statue of a Native American at the feet of a Catholic missionary and Spanish cowboy near San Francisco’s City Hall has been taken down after many called it 'racist' and 'disrespectful.'
The statue “Early Days” was first erected in 1894 and was part of the larger Pioneer Monument, a piece that included four bronze reliefs depicting the different groups of people that lived on the land in the early days of California.
The controversial statue featured a Native American man lying at the feet of his colonizers – a vaquero, or Spanish cowboy, and a priest.
On Friday morning, just before sunrise, a work crew took down the 2,000-pound statue by crane as a group of Native Americans chanted and burned sage.
“We're witnessing a moment in history where, commendably, San Francisco officials are doing the right thing to help rectify the mistreatment of indigenous people," said Janeen Antoine, who is of Lakota heritage, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "We're very happy this is finally happening after decades of work and struggle from the native community."
In its place now stands a plaque explaining what was there previously, and why it was taken down.
The removal of “Early Days” comes after decades of protest by Native American activists.
“[The sculpture uses] visual stereotypes common at the turn of the twentieth century to depict all Native Americans which are now universally viewed as disrespectful, misleading, and racist,” the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) said in a statement earlier this year.
A spokesperson for the SFAC told NPR, “For those who argue that it represents history, it’s a very inaccurate representation,” adding that the statue is “not even a California Indian.”