- By Native News Online Staff
WASHINGTON — Jemez Pueblo sculptor Cliff Fragua, 65, called officials at the U.S. Capitol after last Wednesday’s Capitol riot that left the building trashed, dozens of people injured and five people dead. Fragua had good reason to be concerned because a statue of Po’Pay, which he carved, is on display in the Capitol.
He was told the marble sculpture was of Po'pay, a pueblo Indian who conspired to drive the Spanish from what is now New Mexico nearly 100 years before the better-known American revolution began, was not damaged.
On Wednesday morning, Fragua reeived a Tweet showing national guard members, who are assigned to protect the Capitol, lying on the cold marble floors of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, some under the Po’Pay statue. Several thousand national guard members are in Washington, D.C. in preparation for next week’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 of Joseph Biden, who will be sworn-in as the 46th president of the United States at noon. It is the first time since the Civil War soldiers have slept inside the Capitol.
“When I saw the photograph this morning, I realized how powerful it all was. I feel it is appropriate they were there under Po’Pay because the message he conveyed about defending his culture and people. Today, our national guard is protecting and caring for our democracy,” Fragua told to Native News Online from his home on the Jemez Pueblo.
“Po’Pay stood up against tyranny and this is what we need now in this country. We need people to stand up against tyranny,” Fragua said. “We, as Native people believe in the Constitution even though we are referred to as savages in the Declaration of Independence. We believe in freedom and equality. Long before they came to this country, we valued those concepts,” Fragua said.
“It’s going to take drastic measures… we have accomplished a lot since they came… we do what we can to protect our languages and cultures… we will contribute to whatever this country needs. I feel it is appropriate the message he conveyed,” Fragua said of Po’Pay. “He was all about protecting and caring for the culture and people.”
Fragua was awarded the commission for the Po’Pay statue in December 1999. It was unveiled and dedicated in September 2005. He carved the seven-foot-high statue from pink Tennessee marble. It stands on a three-foot-high pedestal composed of a steel frame in black granite. In addition, Po'pay is historically the first person represented in the collection to be born on what would become American soil.
The inauguration will take place outside the Capitol. There are an expected 20,000 national guard members in the nation’s capital city.
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