Good riddance to San Francisco’s “Early Days” statue
Published September 14, 2018
strapping statue for removal
SAN FRANCISCO — The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) celebrates a victory with the removal today of a racist statute known as the “Early Days Monument” depicting the colonization of California. The statute has been located at 147 Fulton Street in San Francisco, the site of the historic Ohlone village of Yelamu.
picture and film by Arthur Jacobs
In a unanimous vote on the evening of September 12, the San Francisco Board of Appeals decided to deny the appeal made by one individual from the Sausalito area and to allow the statue’s removal as long demanded by Indigenous Peoples and organizations including the IITC. On hearing the decision, Bernadette Smith (Manchester Band of Pomo) stated, “My people are up here crying their hearts out and speaking their minds of things that matter. I am glad we are here today in solidarity, so that we can remove it as one people.” Dee Dee Manzanares Ybarra of the Rumsen Ohlone tribe stated in her testimony at the hearing, “The priests used to admire how beautiful our women sang. But do you know why they sang at night? To cover the cries of those who were being held captive there.”
After the decision was announced, Native American activist Barbara Mumby-Huerta, (Maidu, Powhatan, Shawnee) commented, “The community has stood in solidarity, Indigenous, people of color and white allies, for thirty years to bring down this beacon to white supremacy…This is one step forward in bringing balance to our city and to help Indigenous communities heal from the trauma inflicted upon them since contact with colonialism.”
The Mission system and the Gold Rush devastated California Indigenous Peoples. Between 1846 -1870 the California Indian population fell from an estimated 150,000 to 31,000. Over 60 percent died from diseases introduced by San Francisco’s newly arrived “49ers” as the massive influx of settlers seeking gold and other resources were called. Thousands of others were subjected to massacres, bounty hunters, enslavement and forced relocations.
The harsh legacies of the Gold Rush persist today. Northern California lands and waterways continue to be contaminated from the mercury used to extract gold ore. This toxic metal, which is now the subject of the United Nations “Minamata Convention,” was never cleaned up and continues to impact the environment and subsistence food chain, especially fish, resulting in devastating health and developmental outcomes on each new generation of California Children.
The explosive growth of the city of San Francisco and the incredible wealth accrued by early settlers was built upon officially sanctioned land loss, servitude, enslavement and genocide of California Indians. State-funded militia groups decimated tribal communities. IITC has called upon the City of San Francisco to formally acknowledge the original inhabitants of this place, the Ohlone Peoples, as well as the brutal injustices carried out against them, as another significant step for truth in history.
In her testimony during the statue removal hearing, Morning Star Gali, a member of the Pit River Tribe in Northern California and IITC’s community liaison coordinator called on the San Francisco Board of Appeals to uphold Article 2 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which affirms that Indigenous Peoples have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination. IITC officially joined this campaign with a formal statement issued on May 25th in which Andrea Carmen, IITC ED stated “This monument glorifies the genocide of the Indigenous Peoples of California.”
The International Indian Treaty Council congratulates California Tribal communities including the local Ohlone Peoples as well as the larger Bay Area Indigenous community for their strong presence and powerful testimonies presented at last night’s hearing. IITC also commends the San Francisco Board of Appeals for this important step to rectify a long history of wrongs against California’s original Peoples.