• Julia Coates

Message from Chief Hoskin

Removal of Daughters of the Confederacy Placed Monuments

This morning two monuments, both relating to Stand Waite and the Confederacy, were removed from the historic Cherokee Nation Capitol building square at my direction.  I take full responsibility for this action and feel that doing so was in our national interest. There has long been discussion within the executive branch to update the Capitol square, including the potential removal of these monuments and other pieces and replacing these with new Cherokee created monuments.  However, I concede that recent events in the country sharpened my focus on the question of whether the monuments in question have a place on our Capitol square.  I concluded that they do not and therefore put the discussion into action. The monuments were placed on those spots during the period of approximately 1913 to 1921 by the Daughters of the Confederacy, a non-Cherokee organization.  Cherokee Nation did not place those monuments on the Capitol square.  Cherokee Nation, its government suppressed by the United States during that time, had no role in the placement of those statues.  Cherokee Nation did not even own our historic capitol building at that time.  The building, taken from us at statehood, was the Cherokee County courthouse. My view is that Cherokee history should be told by primarily by Cherokees and, when it comes to our own public spaces, exclusively by Cherokees.  We’ve suffered for centuries with too many others telling our story for us as they see fit.  It is certainly appropriate for significant events, places and people to be depicted in art, statues, monuments and historic markers in our public spaces.  That is certainly true of such pivotal events as the Trail or Tears and the Civil War, for example.  But, Cherokee Nation should bear responsibly for such displays. In view of this, there are multiple problems with the two Waite / Confederate monuments.  First, as noted these are not “Cherokee” monuments in the sense of creation or origin.  There was a time when the Cherokee people were powerless to determine how our history is depicted on that hallowed Capitol square.  Those monuments were placed at that time.  That time is long gone.  We have the power to build monuments and memorials to significant places, people and events in our history.  We have exercised that power across Cherokee Nation in a way that has brought pride and unity to our Nation.  You can see it in each of our public spaces.  There is no reason that now, more than a century after our Capitol was taken from us, we should not fully exercise that power at the Capitol square. Second, as important as the Civil War was in our history, two Confederate-themed monuments on the Capitol square seems disproportionate to the larger story we should tell about the Civil War as well as other pivotal events such as the Trail of Tears and the Act of Union.  Cherokee Nation’s connection to the civil war is a complex one that takes careful study and explanation.  The Daughters of the Confederacy monuments, including one that was positioned to essentially “welcome“ visitors to the Capitol building, take little care in achieving this. Finally, while I would never deny the historic connection between Cherokee Nation and the Confederacy, prominent and glorified displays of Confederate symbolism and references detract from the spirit of unity that we should foster at our historic Capitol square.  For many, symbols of the Confederacy are painful reminders of slavery and the broader armed rebellion against our country.  I note that the time period in which these monuments were placed here and around the United States coincided with a racist-fueled backlash against black people all over this country.  This is, in my estimation, no coincidence.  Observers with sharper minds than I have on the subject agree.  There are ways to remember Stand Waite and the Civil War that do not cause pain to so many at a place that historically stood for, and should still stand for, unity.  Stand Waite’s story, which spans before, during and after the Civil War, is unquestionably worth telling and we will continue to tell it. The monuments will be placed in storage for the time being.  There may be an appropriate place at which they may be set in a way that shares the larger context of the Civil War period.  More important, in my view, is that the removal of the Daughters of the Confederacy monuments we will create space for Cherokees, for the first time in more than a century, to tell our story across the entirety of the Capitol grounds. I recognize that not everyone shares the opinions expressed above.  Decisions are made frequently with respect to public art that primarily involve executive branch action.  I am mindful that this particularly decision will be met with a harsh reaction from some and warrants careful explanation on my part.  But, my hope is that with a full understanding of the non-Cherokee origins of the monuments and the pain associated with Confederacy symbolism and references at a place of unity, will lead the vast majority of Cherokees to appreciate the new opportunity we now have for Cherokees to better tell the Cherokee story. Wado, Chuck Hoskin, Jr. Principal Chief



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© 2019 by Julia Coates for Cherokee At-Large Tribal Council