Two protesters chained themselves to the obelisk in Santa Fe Plaza on Saturday afternoon. A sign chained next to the two men read, “Here I will remain, a white ally chained to the monoliths of racism, colonialism and hatred holding a sign that makes me feel hopeful. But I can no longer be willing to hope for a better future, rather I now must be willing to fight for one!”
A crowd of protesters gathered around the obelisk with signs and intentionally disrupted patrons walking around the plaza. The protesters asked passersby to donate directly to them, rather than supporting those other businesses that claim to support Indigenous peoples but don’t give the money back to the people that need it.
Protesters also called out those without masks in the plaza and tourists from out of state for increasing the spread of the coronavirus.
The Santa Fe Plaza obelisk was constructed in 1868 as a “monument to soldiers who fell at Velarde and Apache Canyon 1862.” It is listed as a memorial to the American Indian War on the Santa Fe city website.
The “monument” is engraved with writing on all four sides. On one of sides of the stone structure the inscription reads:
“TO THE HEROES WHO HAVE FALLEN IN THE VARIOUS BATTLES WITH SAVAGE INDIANS IN THE TERRITORY OF NEW MEXICO”
In 1973, a letter from the American Indian Movement to then-Governor Bruce King ultimately led to the city installing a plaque to give the “historical context” of the racist wording inscribed on the monument. A year later, an unidentified man chiseled out the words “savage” in protest.
On the heels of the nationwide anti-racist protests, the conversation to remove the obelisk has once again resurfaced.
In June of 2020, according to a report by the Santa Fe New Mexican, Mayor Alan Webber called for the removal of three controversial monuments in Santa Fe due to pressure from local and nationwide groups.
“It is a moment of moral truth, and we’ve been called to do it by our Native American colleagues, friends and family members, and it is long overdue,” the mayor said in a Facebook webcast.
Despite the mayor’s words, the monument still stands and the city has not given any details on when it will come down.
Nick Romero is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @nicromerophoto