I recently was privileged to attend the informational session on the "Hiawatha" statue, hosted by local Ho-Chunk and Native community members.
It was a powerful evening of listening to a truth deeper than anyone who is not truly native to this area could lay claim to.
The powerful stories and raw emotion entrusted to us by our Native neighbors were moving, humbling and motivating. While not all Ho-Chunk agree on how best to proceed with the statue (I'm hard pressed to find a topic on which all white folks agree), it was clear from those who spoke that the statue looming over Riverside is not a source of honor or pride.
While many arguing for the statue to remain are claiming "tradition," we must acknowledge that we're prioritizing a tradition that dates back to the 1960s over the traditions of the people native to this land, many of whom were forcibly taken from them by my (white) people.
While Anthony Zimmerhakl surely did not intend for his creation to be racist, times have changed, and our understanding of privilege and oppression has evolved.
When it comes to the "Hiawatha" statue, I urge my fellow white folks to listen more than we speak, and to mindfully detach from a tradition of ignorance and racism, whether intentional or naive. Thank you to those who poured their emotional labor into this event, and to those who listened respectfully while they shared their truth.
Joella Striebel, La Crosse