Columbus statue to remain in Tower Grove Park after groups call for removal

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The statue of Christopher Columbus will continue to mark the eastern entrance to Tower Grove Park.  A board of commissioners has been working on the issue for the past year. New signs will be posted to give park visitors context into the issues surrounding the statue.

Several groups called for the statue to be removed last year. Signs were posted then to tell visitors that an independent commission was looking into the issue.

The park says that the statue is among several commissioned by Henry Shaw in the late 1800s to highlight contributions of several St. Louis immigrant groups. But, it also symbolizes something very different for others. The disregard for indigenous people.

Tower Grove Park was established in 1868 and the statue was dedicated in October 1886. It’s one of only seven National Historic Landmark urban parks in the nation.

A post on Tower Grove Park’s website says that a board of commissioners has been working on the issue for over the past year. Members included members of the Osage Nation, Cherokee Nation, Hill Business Association, Hill Neighborhood Association, Black Lives Matter, Missouri Historical Society, National Park Service, and the St. Louis Art Museum.

“Based on broad input, the Tower Grove Park Board of Commissioners has committed to reinforcing the park’s role as a welcoming place by recognizing the conflicted legacy of colonization and by affirmatively honoring the heritage of indigenous peoples who have called this land home,” they write in a statement.

The task force says that they studied the history related to the Park and the statue, including Columbus’s impact on indigenous peoples. They also considered how other US communities have dealt with issues related to statues of controversial historical figures.

Park visitors we spoke with believe adding signage and markers is better than removing the statue.

“It’s a part of history and so no matter what that history is, I think all history is important,” said Cynthia Wright.

Cheryl Franz agreed.  She walked by the statue with her dogs on Wednesday and said, “Having the statue there with signage explaining the historical context is a good deal.”

Elaine Heine grew up in St. Louis and now lives in Florida.  She loves Tower Grove Park’s statues.

“You have to tell both sides of the story because Columbus certainly was significant in the changes that he brought but you also have to say how it affected the people who were here,” she said.

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Last year, we began an effort to fully examine important concerns about the statue of Christopher Columbus located in the Park. Based on broad input, the Tower Grove Park Board of Commissioners has committed to reinforce the Park’s role as a welcoming place by recognizing the conflicted legacy of colonization and by affirmatively honoring the heritage of indigenous peoples who have called this land home. As part of those efforts: The Columbus statue will be retained, but signage and markers will be added nearby to provide visitors with important historical context about Columbus and the history of the Park’s land. This will include information about the impact of colonization on indigenous peoples. Similar content will be included on the Park’s website. We will work closely with and seek guidance from Native American communities to develop a comprehensive approach that explains and commemorates the history of the land. Specifically, we want to provide Park visitors with an understanding of the culture of indigenous people and the importance of this land. During the next several months, we will refine and implement specific steps to accomplish these goals to ensure this Park is a place where divisions can heal, and dialogue can continue. We will continue to involve and keep the community informed of progress. To read the full update, please visit our link in bio.

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