Last night, protesters took down the Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln statues in the Park Blocks during an Indigenous People's Day of Rage protest. Statues of historical figures have become a flashpoint because of who they remember and revere—primarily white men who have oppressed and harmed Black and Native people and whose misdeeds have been all but erased from our cultural memory. It is past time to consider the meaning, impact, and future of public and commemorative art.
This summer, city officials asked the Regional Arts & Culture Council to review the City of Portland's outdoor sculptures and identify those that commemorate racist figures, policies, or ideas. RACC, working together with its Public Art Committee, recommended immediately removing several statues from public display consistent with City Council's updated anti-racist values. The priority list RACC developed is informed by significant community input.
I understand the pace of government decision-making is slow, and that some have felt the need to respond to the urgency of this moment through direct action. But the City's public art collection belongs to all of us. We should all have the opportunity to discuss what these statues mean to us and our communities and decide what deaccessioning based on justice and reconciliation should look like.
I was especially disappointed to hear that this weekend's events also impacted the Portland Art Museum and the
Oregon Historical Society and the theft and subsequent abandonment of a historic quilt. This is a difficult time for everyone, including arts and culture organizations. Many face uncertainty about their futures as this crisis continues, and it's unclear when they'll be able to reopen. I encourage you to donate to the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland Art Museum today if you're able.
But today, for Indigenous Peoples' Day, I want to celebrate a small but vital victory for Native women—Savanna's Act has finally been signed into law. Savanna's Act will track victim's tribal enrollment/affiliation and implement more standardized protocols for violence against indigenous women to better combat the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis. Thank you to Tribal Relations-City of Portland Director Laura John, community groups, and Representative Tawna Sanchez for their work on this.
I encourage all Portlanders to also celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day by supporting Native businesses and organizations.