Petition underway to remove George Armstrong Custer from downtown Monroe, Michigan.

MONROE, Mich. — An online movement to remove a statue of General George Armstrong Custer in southeast Michigan is gaining traction.  

An online petition posted on Change.Org is asking for the removal of the statue that is named the George Armstrong Custer Equestrian Monument, also known as Sighting the Enemy. The statue is located in the city of Monroe, where Custer spent his childhood and met his future wife.  

The petition has nearly 8,600 signatures as of Friday morning. The goal is 10,000.  Posted by Katybeth Davis, a resident of Monroe, the petition reads:

“I am requesting the removal of the General Custer statue that is centered in downtown Monroe, MI. This statue represents a man who was glorified by using mass genocide of Native Americans. It does not represent what our town stands for in 2020. 

By taking this statue down it will give the community a sense of change and hope for the future of future members of monroe. We want our kids to grow up safe, happy, healthy, and unafraid to die.”

“I am going to present the petition to the city council on Monday,” Davis, who is non-Native, told Native News Online on Thursday.

Custer who was a war hero in the Civil War went on to fight American Indians in America’s West. He and 265 men under his command lost their lives in the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. The battle is referred to as Custer’s Last Stand.

“Custer’s contributions in the Civil War and then what he did fighting our people prove that in history people can be good and bad,” Dr. Graham Denton, a chiropractor in Monroe and tribal citizen of the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribe, told Native News Online.

Denton grew up in Monroe, which has an American Indian population of 0.4 percent. He said he has always been in support of the removal of the statue from the public.

“We have been floating an idea that the statue could be removed from its pedestal and perhaps moved maybe to a museum and the erect a statue to recognize American Indians. I think in times like these people need to get creative. People need to begin to have conversations to get to compassion, healing and to lasting change,” Denton said.

Julie Dye, a tribal citizen of the Pokagon Band Potawatomi, signed the petition.

“Custer was praised for and best known as an ‘Indian Killer.’ A century later, Indigenous people exist in spite of his kind. Natives are speaking out to demand the removal of this monument as well as many other post-Civil War grandiose public displays installed as reminders of settler colonial dominance,” Dye said.

To counter the petition to have the Custer statue removed, Jeffrey Rush began a petition to keep the statue on Change.org. He wrote, in part, on his petition:

“Times are changing here in our great country. The noble fight for racial equality is a much needed endeavor. We owe it to our fellow Americans to confront and defeat racism wherever it might be. 

However, some hold misguided views based in hatred and self-righteousness. They seek to “cancel” every historical statue or monument, not fully aware of why we celebrate and honor certain individuals from our city’s past.

We all know about General Custer’s role in the Native American Wars. I will not condone his actions during that time period. But history is not clean and politically correct. American policy at the time dictated this expansion.” 

As of Friday morning, there were 1,330 signatures to save the Custer statue.

When contacted by Native News Online, Monroe City Manager Vince Pastue said the city is aware of the petitions, but the petition was not on the agenda for the city council’s Monday meeting.

He sent this statement on behalf of the City of Monroe:

"The City of Monroe is aware of recent online petitions circulating both for and against the removal of the statue of General George Custer currently located at the southwest corner of West Elm and North Monroe. The statue of General Custer has been part of the Monroe community since its dedication at what is now Loranger Square in 1910. It was subsequently moved to Soldiers and Sailors Park in 1923, and then to its current location in 1955. The statue was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

It is recognized that General Custer has been a controversial figure in US history. The statue was dedicated on June 4, 1910 by President William Taft in recognition of the heroism and valiant efforts of the Michigan Brigade at Gettysburg in 1863. The Brigade led by General Custer turned the tide of battle making it one of the most decisive victories for the North during the Civil War, 

To date, there has not been any discussion with the City Council, City Administration, or the broader Monroe community regarding the removal of and/or relocation of the Custer Equestrian Monument."

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