Rock Island plans to donate a controversial statue of warrior Sauk Black Hawk, despite calls from Native American advocates who say it perpetuates negative stereotypes and should not be displayed anywhere.
The statue sits on public land near the vacant site of Watchtower Plaza, where it has served as a billboard on 11th Street, since the 1960s. Last month, the city declared the statue’s ownership surplus and donated it to Blackhawk Bank & Trust, which plans to place it near the drive-through teller lanes at its Milan location, 301 W. 4th St.
While Native Americans call the decision insensitive, the bank defends its decision to reuse the statue.
Bank President Jim Huiskamp told city officials on Monday that he “will be properly taken care of and honored for who he is.”
“I’m sorry, counsel, that my idea of saving the sign, which I consider a work of art, caused so much pain,” Huiskamp said. “I can assure you that was never my intention.
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“I have received many calls and texts thanking me for my action on this issue and their excitement to see him have a new safe home,” he said.
Others want city officials to rethink the donation.
“The recent decision by Rock Island Council to donate the Watch Tower Black Hawk Statue to Blackhawk Bank & Trust has caused great concern and disappointment from the local Native American community and our supporting friends and allies. “said Regina Tsosie, president of the Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities, wrote this week in a letter to Mayor Thoms and members of council. “Why was the Native American community ignored and not consulted? The Black Hawk Statue should not be donated to any for-profit institution or business where to exploit and profit from an image representing a perpetuating race of people a very offensive and disturbing form of racism.”
Rock Island residents expressed their disappointment with the council at its last meeting.
Calling the statue “image deprecation,” Vincent Thomas said Huiskamp should consider establishing a college scholarship fund for Native Americans instead of spending money to move the statue.
Rock Island resident Janet Moline questioned why the bank was offered the statue without first asking the Native American community or the Black Hawk State Historic Site if they might be interested in having it. “I find it very disheartening that no elected official or member of government in the town of Rock Island could look at the only Native American image on town land and not ask if it was not time to oppose us. racial imagery,” Moline says.
“It’s time for us to show some respect for the Sauk and get rid of this sign,” she said. “We hope that the city council will reverse its decision on February 14 or find another way to ensure that this image is no longer part of our local landscape.”
Larry Lockwood, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation of Montana, emphasized the need for greater cultural sensitivity. “We were taken away from our culture; we were taken away from our traditional clothes, our language, our heritage objects and our songs (taken away),” he said. “I am the product of an educational system that tried to eliminate the Indian from our children.”
At least three aldermen should agree to put the item back on the agenda of the municipal council. Only one has since spoken publicly against the council’s earlier decision.
“I want to apologize for my part in the decision (to donate the statue),” Alderman Dylan Parker, Ward 5, said. is something that deserves to be put back on the agenda and considered further.”