Spokane Arts stands with the Pacific Islander community in asking city officials to remove this statue. Removing it would be one step toward correcting inaccurate history and toward healing the communities harmed. This monument was donated to the city of Spokane in 1906. The pediment of the statue perpetuates racist stereotypes in both text and imagery, and is a source of ongoing harm not only to Samoans and the broader Pacific Islander community, but to all Indigenous peoples who have been denigrated with the same racist stereotypes found on the monument. The statue should be removed.
What is the Citizens’ Advisory Council? It is a group of dedicated volunteers, led by the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander community, who are working to educate the public about how the historical narrative perpetuated by the statue is inaccurate, why that narrative, language, and imagery create ongoing pain and harm to both Pacific Islanders and all Indigenous people, and to help the wound once the statue is removed from its current place of honor/prestige. Spokane Arts has been a member of the CAC coalition since its inception.
PICA: Pacific Islander Community Association
The Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington (PICA-WA) is an organization that seeks to live out the indigenous values of Pasifika (NH/PI) communities here in Washington State through community organizing, and speaking our truth fiercely to systems of power while providing social supports and cultural spaces for the community to gather in dignity. Our mission is threefold: establish a cultural home, center community power, and further the wellness of our communities physically, culturally, socially and spiritually. Pasifika communities of Washington are a resilient community and while it has had to endure struggles in combating systematic erasure, Pasifika people will continue to rise!
APIC Spokane: Asian Pacific Islander Coalition
APIC is dedicated to advancing and restoring the civil and human rights of, and racial and economic justice for, all Asians and Asian Americans in solidarity with Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Black, Brown, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, and other systemically oppressed communities. APIC partners with existing community organizations and works within the Asian and Asian American communities to advance racial equity and eliminate structural, organizational, and individual racism.
CAC Brief on Statue History, created by the Citizens’ Advisory Council leading the local effort to educate the public on why the statue is historically inaccurate.
Curious about the history? Visit SpokaneHistorical.org to learn more.
Teach-in slides by Laura Laumatia, a tool for educating community members about why the statue creates ongoing pain and harm, can be found here. To schedule a teach-in, please contact the Citizen’s Advisory Council for the Removal of the John R. Monaghan monument.
An article by Margo Hill, Spokane Tribe, “No Honor in Genocide: A Case Study of Street Renaming and Community Organizing in the Wake of National Decolonization Efforts” has been published in the Gonzaga Journal of Hate Studies, and references the effort to remove the Monaghan Statue: Hill, M. (2021). No Honor in Genocide: A Case Study of Street Renaming and Community Organizing in the Wake of National Decolonization Efforts. Journal of Hate Studies, 17(1), 85–107. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33972/jhs.200
October 2021, CNN, “For Pacific Islanders, a statue in Washington state recalls a dark chapter in history”
“This statue, with its offensive imagery and racist language, stands as a message that says that we are unwelcome here and/or thought of as less than human, which is usually what the word ‘savage’ tries to imply,” Kiana McKenna, director of Eastern Washington services for the Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington, wrote in an email to CNN. “We deserve to feel safe here and even more, we deserve the ability to thrive here without oppression.”
Associate professor of history, Veta Schlimgen: “When [the statue] went up, it commemorated the death of a young community member, but why it was important to remember him is because he was ‘murdered by savages,’ and that language discriminates against and diminishes the personhood of Samoans,” Schlimgen continues, referencing the wording and images on a bronze plaque at the base of the statue. “And this is very consistent over 20th century and even into 21st, the reference of Samoans as savages,” she says. “It’s continually a source of injury and hurt, and this is why we think the statue and its sentiment, they all need to go. We need to get rid of it so we can start to heal.”
Human Rights Commission member Lance Kissler: “The bas-relief has some language that’s inappropriate, offensive, racial slurs directed towards Samoan people,” he explained. “We believe that we should take a look back at some of the things that we’ve done and make them right,” he said. The statue also calls Samoans “savages,” which is why the Citizens Advisory Council started a petition to remove it. Kissler said the Human Rights Commission voted this month to support the removal.
“This statue is not only a reminder of the atrocities committed against our people and our ancestors, but of all Indigenous people,” says Kiana McKenna, a Samoan-American who holds positions with the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Spokane and the YWCA’s Spokane Racial and Social Justice Committee. “This statue sits on the Indigenous homelands of the Spokane Tribe and is also a stark reminder of the land stolen and the colonization that occurred here,” McKenna adds.
Spokane Arts executive director Melissa Huggins: “The arts commission feels strongly that the city should remove the statue, but more importantly, they want to follow the lead of the Samoan/Pacific Islander community’s preference about what should be done with it,” Huggins says. “Based on the conversations so far, our belief is that changing the plaque is not enough, because the statue itself represents a soldier who was sent to their country explicitly to colonize it, and that colonization was accomplished through violence against the Samoan people.”
October 2021, Gonzaga University Bulletin: “It’s important to get involved and bring awareness, we can’t just be passive citizens,” Tia Moua, junior at Gonzaga and member of the CAC, said. “So many people choose to ignore these issues of racism, because they think, ‘It doesn’t affect me,’ or, ‘I shouldn’t get involved in that.’ It’s about caring enough about our community, not only because the statue is here, but also because there’s people in our community who are Samoan and Pacific Islander; who are deeply impacted by this racist statue. Not only just by the statue, but by other forms of racism.”
Petition created by Citizens’ Advisory Council, and invitation for individuals to sign:
I just signed the petition “Remove the Racist John R. Monaghan Statue from Downtown Spokane, WA” and wanted to ask if you could add your name too. This campaign means a lot to me and the more support we can get behind it, the better chance we have of succeeding. You can read more and sign the petition here:
You are welcome to share the petition with others by sending the link in an email or sharing the link on Facebook or Twitter.
CAC Community Outreach