ST. LOUIS – On this Columbus Day, Native Americans are protesting the Christopher Columbus statue in Tower Grove Park. The day officially celebrates Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. It is observed on the second Monday of October in the United States.
The statue was commissioned for Tower Grove Park on October 12, 1868. But the statue is a sign of sorrow for several St. Louis Native Americans, who point to the treatment of indigenous peoples during the colonization of the Americas.
St. Louis native Sarah Ivey-Trankler with the American Indian Movement says, “My main goal is to get the day abolished. If you go to Germany, do you think they celebrate Hitler? Or better yet, Israel, do they celebrate Hitler?”
Tower Grove Park director Bill Reininger says they are aware of the controversy this statue brings, especially on Columbus Day, so they have created a Columbus statue commission.
Reininger says, “That group will meet to discuss what it means and make a recommendation to our Board of Commissioners on its role in the park.”
The commission is made up of Native Americans, Italian Americans, individuals from the Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, National Parks Service, and Black Lives Matter.
Reininger says this is a complicated issue because Tower Grover Park has always been inclusive, hosting events like PrideFest and a pagan festival.
“The fact the statue is countering that gives us pause but there's a lot that goes into this park being a National Historic Landmark.”
The park says removing the statue and its historical significance could affect the park’s National Historic Landmark status. The Columbus statue, one of Alexander von Humboldt, and William Shakespeare were put in the park to welcome immigrants from Germany and Italy 150 years ago. But that doesn’t make Native Americans feel any better.
Ivey-Trankler says, “This is just a constant reminder that we’re considered less, we're just less.”
The group says if the statue stays, signage should tell what they say is the true history of Columbus, not one of a hero. The American Indian Movement says they feel they should be included on the statue commission as well.