Indigenous People’s Day, Des Moines, 2020

Yesterday’s gathering at the Iowa State Capitol to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day was a beautiful and yet somber occasion. Ralph Moisa sang and played the drum. My friend Christine Nobiss spoke about the petition (below) to abolish monuments, names and holidays to White supremacy in Iowa.

The petition that was presented to Iowa State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad (below) builds upon a similar petition presented to him on July 4th. Forcing the government to do their part in removing statues to white supremacy

My friend Ronnie James read a number of messages from those who could not attend, including some who have been banned from being on the State Capitol grounds as a result of previous arrests. Racial justice protesters banned from Iowa Capitol in “stunning misuse of power”

I saw Austin, Patrick and Molly, all of whom I just recently met on the Saturday mornings when we worked together to distribute free food. One of the projects of Des Moines Mutual Aid. It was good to see my friend Jon Krieg from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) who I hadn’t seen for a while because of the virus.

People were being helped to register to vote.

Activists called for the removal of statues and for Columbus Day to no longer be recognized in Iowa at an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration at the Iowa State Capitol Monday.

Great Plains Action Society, Iowa CCI and Des Moines Mutual Aid hosted the celebration, where Indigenous activists spoke and shared music celebrating the holiday. But Christine Nobiss, aka Sikowis, who is Plains Cree-Saulteaux, said the event was also “a resistance.”

“It is important that Iowans demand that their government carry out a genuine act of truth and reconciliation on stolen land, removing all depictions of white supremacy,” Nobiss said.

Organizers presented Iowa State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad a petition calling for the removal of the bust of Columbus, Pioneer and friendly Indian Statue and “mural of manifest destiny” on Iowa State Capitol grounds. 

Activists petition to remove Columbus statue and others on Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration by Robin Opsahl, Des Moines Register, October 12, 2020

Abolish White Supremacist Monuments, Names and Holidays in Iowa

We demand that all white supremacist, misogynistic and, homo/transphobic historical monuments, names, and holidays be removed from all Iowa state grounds and facilities. By removing these monuments, we are not erasing history—we are correcting it. These depictions fall into the realm of hate propaganda and human rights violations because they make specific segments of the population feel unwelcome in public spaces. 

This propaganda is everywhere but many do not realize it depicts enslavement, land theft, violence, and genocide. Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and many other oppressed folks in this country must face these images every day in their neighborhoods, commutes, or at their places of work. It is important that Iowans demand that their government carry out a genuine act of truth and reconciliation on stolen land by removing all depictions of white supremacy.

Sign today to demand that Iowa legislators do the right thing and pass a bill that will remove all white supremacist, misogynistic and, homo/transphobic historical depictions, names, and holidays from all Iowa state grounds and facilities. 

Democrats, in the state of Virginia, have begun this process by passing two similar bills in the house and senate that “allow cities to ‘remove, relocate, contextualize, cover or alter’ monuments in public spaces.” Iowa needs to follow suit. For instance, the Iowa Department of Human Services states that any facility they operate may not promote any discriminatory practice nor shall the Department become a party to any agreement that permits any discriminatory practice. This rule must be expanded to include monuments, names, and holidays–examples are listed below:

– The bust of Columbus on Iowa State Capitol grounds
– Columbus Day, which is still celebrated and taught in the public school system
– Pioneer and friendly Indian Statue on Iowa State Capitol Grounds
– The Marion Indian mascot and name
– The name “Squaw Creek” for the tributary to South Skunk River in Ames
– 40 foot mural of manifest destiny in the Iowa State Capitol building
– Manifest Destiny murals in the Polk County Courthouse
– Confederate monuments in Bloomfield

These monuments, names, and holidays clearly celebrate white supremacy as they whitewash the history of colonization, genocide, slavery, and Jim Crow in this county. They are an overt act of institutionalized racism. For instance, when referring to a statue of “Johnny Reb” in a recent speech, Jay Jones, a black Democratic delegate from Virginia said, “Every time I drive past it — which is every day to get to my law office — my heart breaks a little bit,” It is time for Iowa to accept responsibility for the past and for the continued retraumatization of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ folks through these public displays of white supremacy and the heteropatriarchy. 

If there is a monument, mural, or any other celebration of White supremacy in your neighborhood, we ask that you take the time to learn more about it and take action. Write to your local legislator, organize a rally, or start an online campaign. There is a lot that we all can do to clear the social landscape of a false history told only by white men.

To learn more about Great Plains Action Society, go to

This entry was posted in American Friends Service Committee, decolonize, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Great Plains Action Society, Indigenous, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Native Americans, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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