RI Indian Council: Now is the time to discuss Columbus statue’s history, learn from past mistakes


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Two days after the statue of Christopher Columbus was vandalized in Providence, the head of the Rhode Island Indian Council is calling for more discussion regarding its significance rather than its removal.

Executive Director Darrell Waldron tells Eyewitness News that the underlying reasons the statue is being targeted by vandals should be addressed before a decision on the statue’s future is made.

“You can take away the statue, you can move the statue, but it’s not the reason why it was being defaced,” Waldron explained.

The statue, located on Elmwood Avenue, has been vandalized several times within recent years, including twice last year; once on Columbus Day and the other just days before Thanksgiving.

The vandalism sparked a debate over whether or not to move the statue to Federal Hill, though one city councilor introduced legislation opposing the relocation and another argued it should be removed from the city completely.

Despite being boarded up, the statue was once again vandalized over the weekend amid calls to end racial inequality and police brutality nationwide.

Waldron said neither the protective box, nor the removal of the statue itself, will address the painful past or present it represents for Native Americans.

“They can box it in a box like they have now, and there is paint splattered on the box, but they’re not going to shut down the reason it’s being attacked,” Waldron said. “Native Americans are the most persecuted and killed by cops in this nation though it never makes the news. The data is very horrific, especially in some of these large western communities, but no one ever talks about it.”

Waldron believes as protests continue throughout the streets of Rhode Island and nationwide, now is the time for honest conversations to change the course of the country, rather than worry about its past transgressions of racism and genocide.

“History is history. But you can learn from it,” Waldron said. “If you’re not going to learn from your past, you’re doomed to repeat it.”

No matter the statue’s location, Waldron said it will always be at risk for vandalism, and now is the time for the community to discuss real solutions to improve the lives of people of color nationwide.

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