The Native American Student Union protested for the removal of the Pioneer statue Wednesday afternoon – the 100 year anniversary of the statue’s instillation on campus.
Bret Gilbert, NASU co-leader, said this protest was intended to raise awareness on the statue’s history and gather signatures for its removal from campus.
“A lot of our students feel oppressed by the statue. I know when I walk under it I feel very inferior,” Gilbert said. “I don’t feel that way when I’m at other places on campus. I don’t think that’s what the university community wants us to feel like when we’re here.”
Over the past few years, the history department at UO conducted research that revealed the statue’s controversial history and roots in white supremacy.
Gilbert said NASU is pushing for the removal of the statue – rather than adding historical context to the statue.
“Unless I have a concrete proposition on what that contextualization will look like, it’s difficult for me to trust that there will be a real effort towards that,” Gilbert said.
NASU members held signs that read: “Killer on Stolen Kalapuya Land,” “Genocide should not be commemorated,” “Do not celebrate genocide,” “Take it down” and “Whose History Does UO Honor?”
Gilbert said he is encouraged by the positive responses they received from students during the protest.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has been really open to having a conversation,” Gilbert said. “The critical thinking and the questions asked are really encouraging.”
UO spokesperson Molly Blancett released a statement from the university following the protest:
“The Pioneer statue was unveiled 100 years ago to represent Oregon’s first European settlers. A century later, a more inclusive view of history recognizes that The Pioneer symbolizes just one part of the story. The UO fully appreciates that to many Oregonians, including those of Native American ancestry, it stands for something very different, the framing of history from only one culture’s perspective. We take those views very seriously. Last winter, the UO established a presidential working group – led by Dean of Libraries Adriene Lim and Professor Dean Livelybrooks – to audit and review campus monuments, plaques and public art installations and recommend whether any changes need to be made to those features to recognize the diverse histories of our community. The Pioneer statue is part of that review, and the working group hopes to deliver a report, including recommendations, next fall. We are happy to share any research and information from outside organizations with that working group.”
The statue, sitting between Fenton and Friendly Halls, depicts a Pioneer with a rifle slung over its shoulder and a whip in its hand. It was vandalized last month with red paint on the groin and whip and googly eyes placed over the statue’s eyes.