Let’s continue with our tour of monuments and memorials around Turtle Island.
Crazy Horse Memorial
It’s touted as the “world’s largest mountain carving” and a project that will never be fully complete, according to the website. Whether to put this one on the list or not may be up for debate, because sure it’s a monument to Lakota leader Crazy Horse, which is great, but, carving and blasting into the sacred Black Hills is happening again. Others wonder how can it be Crazy Horse when he refused to be photographed? Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski said he didn’t mean for it to necessarily look like Crazy Horse, just be named after him and be a tribute to him. But calling it by his name means people will think that’s what he looked like.
When asked what he thought of the monument in 2011, Sonny Skyhawk said: “Even though there are claims to participation and acts of acknowledgement by some of his descendants, the effort has been deemed a commercial venture. It is being touted as a non-profit endeavor, but seems to provide a comfortable living for the family of the sculptor, and what is left over is given in the form of programs or scholarships. There are no photos of Crazy Horse, who died in 1877, so an image being made in the 21st century cannot be accurate. The Lakota consider the effort a folly of sorts.”
Civil War Memorial
Outside the Capitol in Denver, Colorado the bronze figure of a Union soldier still stands, gun in hand. The statue was unveiled in 1909 and has four tablets on the stone under the sculpture listing those who died in the area battles—Sand Creek is listed among them. On November 29, 1864, Colonel Major John Chivington led his men in a raid on Sand Creek, a peaceful camp of Arapaho and Cheyenne. More than 150 were killed, mostly elderly men, women and children. That was no battle; it was a massacre. Some pushed to remove Sand Creek from the memorial. Instead, it was decided that an explanation plaque would be added to the memorial.
“This is as close to an official apology for the massacre that occurred 138 years ago as is possible,” former state Sen. Bob Martinez said about the plaque that was installed in 2002.
Born around 1550 Juan de Oñate is a Spanish conquistador most known for amputating the feet and hands of Acoma Indians. When in 1599 Oñate insisted the Acoma pay a food tax, they refused. A fight broke and the Acoma killed 13 Spaniards including Oñate’s nephew. He then ordered the village be destroyed, leaving only about 200 survivors out of nearly 2,000. Indian men who were able to fight were ordered to foot amputation and 20 years of servitude, others were ordered to hand amputation. Acoma children were sent to missionaries in Mexico. Oñate was eventually tried in Mexico City and convicted on a dozen charges, including using excessive force against the Acoma, reports PBS. He lived the rest of his life in Spain.
There is a 12-foot statue of Oñate a few miles north of Espanola, New Mexico. In 1998, a group of Acoma actually sawed the statue’s right foot off. It has since been repaired. Another statue to Oñate, this one measuring 36-feet tall was completed in El Paso, Texas in 2007. The statue cost about $2 million to erect, 40 percent of it coming from the city’s coffers. It was built by John Sherrill Houser whose father, Ivan Houser, was assistant to Gutzon Borglum during the early years of the carving of Mount Rushmore.
“The Pueblo people have never gotten over the cruel treatment and oppression they endured under Oñate,” Oscar Martinez, a historian at the University of Arizona, wrote in a letter to the El Paso City Council in 2002. “Oñate's behavior can actually be compared to Nazi officers who directed campaigns against the Jews in the 1930’s and 1940’s, including extermination drives. Who would ever consider building a statue to some Nazi personage and placing it the town square?”
This video was shot the day The Equestrian was unveiled in El Paso:
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Nathan Bedford Forrest has multiple monuments to him across the country. He was a military leader during the Civil War, but is most known as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. As of 2007, Tennessee alone had 32 historic markers linked to Forrest. There is a statue of him in Forrest Park in Memphis—the park was renamed to Health Sciences Park in February—as well as a bust of him on display at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. There’s a monument to him in the Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Rome, Georgia and another in the Confederate Circle section of Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama and there was talk last year of expanding it.
“Nathan Bedford Forrest led his troops to kill black soldiers who had surrendered,” Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders told the Daily Agenda. “He killed women and children. That would be enough alone that you would not have this monument built.” Sanders is referring to what occurred after the Battle of Fort Pillow in 1864 when Forrest allowed his forces to massacre black Union troops who had surrendered.
The site where the Mayflower Pilgrims are said to have disembarked in present Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 has long been revered by Europeans and is now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. To Natives it’s a “monument to racism and oppression” says the United American Indians of New England. Since 1970, the group has been holding a National Day of Mourning instead of Thanksgiving. That first year and again in 1995, the group buried Plymouth Rock.
“They [pilgrims] introduced sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class system to these shores,” says the United American Indians of New England website. “One of the very first things they did when they arrived on Cape Cod—before they even made it to Plymouth—was to rob Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill and steal as much of the Indians’ winter provisions as they were able to carry. They were no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their treatment of the Indigenous peoples here.”