A Veritable 'Who's That?' of U.S. History
Statuary at New Capitol Center An Eclectic Bunch
The statues in the collection make up one of the oldest groups of public sculpture in the country, according to historian Lachin. She said they reflect the sensibilities of many eras in U.S. history.
The collection has been criticized in the past for lacking in its representation of women and minorities.
There is only one sculpture of a black person in the Capitol complex, the bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the main rotunda, which is not part of the collection, according to the architect's office.
But the eclectic group being moved into the new limelight is diverse.
It includes dramatic bronzes of Nevada's Sarah Winnemucca, a 19th-century Paiute educator, translator and spokeswoman for Native Americans, and Chief Washakie, a renowned Shoshone warrior who was another powerful advocate for Native Americans.
Other striking statues are those of the famed Hawaiian king Kamehameha I, wearing a gilded cape and helmet, and New Mexico's seven-foot-tall pink marble image of Po'pay, a Pueblo Indian leader who directed an uprising against the Spanish in 1680.
As is often the case, though, there's less here than meets the eye. Let's take a closer look at the five:
Only the remaining two were truly opposed to Euro-American beliefs and values:
As noted here, some people weren't happy with the selection of Po'pay (Popé) to represent New Mexico. "[S]some state residents and lawmakers said they did not want to send a statue of Popé, who was from what is now San Juan Pueblo, to the U.S. Capitol, reasoning he was a murderer and responsible for the deaths of thousands of Spanish settlers." And since Po'pay fought only Spaniards, it's not as if he did anything anti-American.
The set of 23 statues also includes Eusebio F. Kino, a Catholic priest who "helped Christianize the indigenous Native American population in what is now Arizona." Overall, therefore, we see a bias toward Indians and others who helped Indians become civilized and assimilate into the mainstream. And against Indians who fought to maintain their independence and traditional cultures.
The rest of the statues
The 76 statues not in the Visitor Center include a smattering of famous Americans, but not as many as you'd think. There are only four US presidents, for instance. Neither Illinois nor Kentucky chose to represent Abraham Lincoln.
There are a couple more Natives and several people with a Native connection--usually a bad one. Again, the bias is toward Indians who tried to fit into the American paradigm of civilization. And toward non-Indians who belittled, dismissed, or hurt Indians.
The remaining statues include:
We can't exactly criticize the government for giving us seven statues of Native Americans (including Native Hawaiians). Based on statistics, you'd expect only one or two of the statues to be Natives. But the most prominent Indians--Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, Tecumseh--aren't represented. That's because it's still politically incorrect to say that Indians were right and America was wrong.
For more on the subject, see Best Indian Monuments to Topple.
Below: "Die, white oppressors. And then raise a statue to me for overthrowing your oppression."