A statue that refers to Samoans as “savaged foes” will remain in Spokane, Washington for now, despite calls for its removal by many including members of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.
The John Monaghan statue is in the center of town not far from Spokane City Hall.
It’s been there since 1910 to honor Ensign Monaghan for his role in the Navy in conquering Samoa. The statue depicts Samoans holding primitive weapons, a depiction described as both inaccurate and racist.
“We have staff who are from these villages and have accounts of what the mourning and grief still looks like,” said Kiana McKenna, Director of Policy & Civic Engagement for the Pacific Islander Community Association of WA to Range Media. “It’s not powerful in any way to have a statue which puts down an entire group of people right central in the middle of our city.”
CNN reports members of the NHPI community have been demanding that the statue be taken down for years.
“There’s no honor in lifting up somebody that killed our ancestors,” said Joseph Seia, founder and former executive director of the Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington.
A Move On.org petition says “the statue uses degrading language, perpetuates racist stereotypes, and misrepresents Sāmoan defenders of their land, homes, and resources.”
The Spokane City Council paved the way for the statue to be moth balled when it past an ordinance setting up a process for the Human Rights Commission to remove city-owned properties that made people feel unwelcomed.
Mayor Nadine Woodward vetoed it, saying those decisions should be left to the Landmarks Commission.
The council plans to reintroduce the ordinance, a process that will force it to start over to repeat something that has already taken it years to do.
“The veto itself feels like an abuse of power,” said McKenna. “It feels very out of touch with impacted communities and also has put three years of very hard and emotional work back multiple steps.”
(Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Seia is PICA’s current executive director. We apologize for the mistake)
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