Citizens have launched a petition to preserve the Hiawatha statue in Riverside Park after La Crosse city officials voted last week to remove the long-controversial piece.
The petition has just over 1,300 signatures, with many of those who have signed calling it another tactic of "cancel culture."
"Hiawatha was known as a peacemaker. His goal was to unify different tribes," the petition reads, noting that the beads, colors and symbols were meant to represent many different tribes and cultures.
"Let us allow this statue to stand as a symbol of peace for us all," it continues, addressing it to La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat, who said he had no comment on the matter.
Though petitioners argue that the statue represents the unity of many tribes, its original purpose was not to represent Indigenous groups but to promote tourism for the city, city records have shown.
And Indigenous tribes have long spoken out against the statue and its depiction of Native tribes, calling it a "mish-mash" of different cultures that have historically been blended and depicted using racist stereotypes in its retelling by non-Native communities.
And after years of remaining neutral on the issue, the Ho-Chunk Nation has released an official statement, commending the city for its action.
"The Hiawatha statue overlooking the Mississippi River in La Crosse's Riverside Park depicts a historically inaccurate figure," Marlon WhiteEagle, the Ho-Chunk Nation president, said.
"The original intention for placement of the statue was not that of honoring or paying homage to the Indigenous people to the area, but only to capitalize on the economics of tourism," WhiteEagle continued.
The statue is set to be removed in the next few weeks, though no date has been announced. It will remain in storage with the city for up to a year until the artist's family has found a new home for it.
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