Yesterday I saw some of my friends speaking in an online conversation about removing monuments to white supremacy in the state of Iowa. This is something they have been teaching me about over the past year. Links to those posts can be found at the end of this.
Abolish White Supremacist Monuments, etc. in Iowa
Great Plains Action Society started this petition to Iowa Governor and Iowa State Senate.
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.
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 greatplainsaction.org
Early last year, I was invited to support my best friend, Rogue LaMere, deliver a fiery speech at the Climate Crisis Parade in Des Moines, Iowa. This would be the first time in my life where I traveled to Des Moines, Iowa. The Climate Crisis Parade was a success. However, the event that followed afterwards is what got my heart pumping. It was an event to denounce white supremacy at the Iowa State Capitol building. Erected in front of the Iowa State Capitol stands a settler, his son, and a “friendly Indian” who appear to be looking off into the distance. The statue is titled, “Pioneers of the Territory.” The Iowa Legislature explains, as if proudly, further into the making of the statue and what it represents:
“The design for this grouping called for: ‘The Pioneer of the former territory, a group consisting of father and son guided by a friendly Indian in search of a home.’ The pioneer depicted was to be hardy, capable of overcoming the hardships of territorial days to make Iowa his home…Originally designed to be a lion’s head, this bronze buffalo head was determined more appropriate to Iowa’s prairie environment.”
Signs of Racism and MMIWG2S (Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Two-Spirit) and In Search of Stolen Land were held that day. While we stood before the capitol building, Christine Nobiss (Plains-Cree Saulteaux), Michelle Free-LaMere (Ho-Chunk), and Donnielle Wanatee (Meswaki) stood in front of this statue and delivered an urgent call-to-action to take all problematic statues down at the Iowa State Capitol as well as nationally. It was a powerful day. Quite often we are told that when moments like that happen, everyone that is supposed to be there – will be there. Each of us either feel that call or we don’t. I left that day feeling like I needed to do more. I was no longer going to sit by and witness our history being taken away like everything else was.
Decapitating Colonialism: White Supremacist Statues, Monuments, & Symbolism Written by Alexandrea Flanders, Great Plains Action Society
The earliest pioneer monuments were put up in midwestern and western cities such as Des Moines, Iowa and San Francisco, California. They date from the 1890s and early 1900s, as whites settled the frontier and pushed American Indians onto reservations.
Those statues showed white men claiming land and building farms and cities in the West. They explicitly celebrated the dominant white view of the Wild West progressing from American Indian “savagery” to white “civilization.”Think Confederate monuments are racist? Consider pioneer monuments by Cynthia Prescott, The Conversation.
Following are previous posts related to monuments to white supremacy in Iowa.
My friends Christine Nobiss and Donnielle Wanatee organized the event at the Iowa State Capitol on July 4th, 2020, regarding removing the Pioneer statue on the grounds there.
I was blessed to be able to attend this ceremony. Sometimes things we get involved with don’t seem to impact us directly. But they might in ways we may not be aware of at the time. This July 4th ceremony with the voices of Christine and Donnielle helped me see the effects of these statues in a new way. See these with my heart and not just my mind. That illumination came from the story Christine shared.
This land is stolen land. Where we are standing it’s the land of the Ioway and the Meskwaki and the Dakota.
I am tired as an Indigenous person coming to these spaces and seeing these because it does trigger historical trauma. And it does make me feel unwelcome here. And I should not feel unwelcome here, especially as an indigenous person of Turtle Island.
I think this is hate speech. Iowa doesn’t have any laws per se against hate speech, but it does have laws against discrimination. So I feel discriminated when I come here and I look at this or when I go inside and I have to look at that awful mural of westward expansion that tells the story of bringing proper farming practices to Iowa. Like the people here didn’t know what they were frickin’ doing, And especially the Columbus statue, which is over there somewhere, but it’s being protected right now.Christine Nobiss, Seeding Sovereignty
Indigenous People’s Day, Des Moines, 2020 | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)
I Don’t Feel Welcome | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)
HEY! Come Get Your Racist Uncle | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)