The binoculars of history
In the clamor over whether Toh-Atin’s “Chief” should stay as a timeless, beloved Durango icon or go as a dated, racist cartoon misrepresenting Native Americans, I see our own local version of the recent battles waged over keeping Confederate-era monuments and statues standing in the Southern states.
If we are to finally heal and move past the racial and cultural-based prejudices that have plagued this nation since its founding, staunch defenders of the sign need to check again to see which end of the binoculars they are using to examine history.
Because this debate isn’t about the fun, family meals you might have enjoyed years ago under the sign at the diner. And it isn’t about how, after all these years, the figure on the sign seems to be waving to you like he’s greeting an old friend. It isn’t an attack on the Clark family, either, though many have seen it as such. The Clarks are fine people and true supporters of so many families and communities in the Four Corners.
This is about Native American citizens of this country – especially students who travel from near and far to attend Fort Lewis College – turning onto Ninth from Main Ave. or Camino del Rio without being confronted with a giant image seen as a cruel caricature that leaves many wondering if they are valued, or even welcome, in Durango.
Just as any Black citizen of the United States should be able to travel to, move to, or study in a city like Richmond, Va., without being confronted by monuments to a society that believed in their enslavement, Native Americans should come to our community and see a place where they are not reminded, upon arrival, of injustices from the past.
But wait, you might shout, still holding those binocs the wrong way: The sign isn’t posted in a city park, or a public cemetery. It’s on private property, so that’s different ... .
– Gregory Moore, Hermosa