New Report: Worst Monument in Charlottesville Can Be Removed

A new report released July 1, 2019, concludes that a major monument in Charlottesville, Virginia, can be legally removed.

The monument, which depicts George Rogers Clark threatening Native American men and a woman holding an infant, is not covered by a Virginia state law that forbids removing war monuments, due to the date of the monument’s erection and its ownership by the University of Virginia rather than the County of Albemarle.

George Rogers Clark said that he would have liked to “see the whole race of Indians extirpated” and that he would “never spare Man woman or child of them on whom he could lay his hands.” Clark wrote a statement to the various Indian nations in which he threatened “Your Women & Children given to the Dogs to eat.”

Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia, depicted in a smaller statue nearby in front of the Rotunda building, when he was Governor of Virginia, sent George Rogers Clark west to attack Native Americans, writing that the goal “should be their extermination, or their removal beyond the lakes or Illinois river.” Clark killed the captured and destroyed the crops of those he was sent by Jefferson to exterminate or remove. Clark later unsuccessfully proposed further military expeditions to Virginia Governor Benjamin Harrison in order to demonstrate “that we are always able to crush them at pleasure.”

Hundreds of people have signed a petition to James Ryan, President of the University of Virginia, that reads:

Remove the statue of George Rogers Clark engaged in genocide to a museum where it can be presented as a shameful memory.

The new report reviews several alternatives for the monument, including destruction, removal, the placing of a new monument in front to block it from view, and leaving the monument in place but contextualizing it:

“There is considerable space available on every side of the monument. It would be possible to construct several new memorials around this one. These new memorials might tell various parts of the story, or perspectives of the story, of the ‘conquering of the Northwest.’ One memorial might depict Thomas Jefferson sending Clark on his mission, and quote the instructions he was given. Another might depict the execution of prisoners, another the use of rape as a weapon of war, another the burning of crops, another the destruction of villages, another the struggles for survival by the nations devastated and displaced by Virginia’s past imperialism. Quotes from Clark could be included on some of the new memorials. The possibilities are endless. The point is that the University of Virginia is in possession of the knowledge and the funding to wisely and beautifully communicate opposition to genocide, rather than glorification of it, without challenging any law or even facing any accusation of ‘destroying history!'”

In the end, the report makes the following recommendation:

“The University and the City should create a public process for considering the proper fate of the George Rogers Clark monument. Among those consulted should be representatives of the nations attacked by George Rogers Clark. Also among those consulted should be young people, who will be most influenced by the decision and live with it the longest.”

The report is available as a PDF and on a webpage.

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7 Replies to “New Report: Worst Monument in Charlottesville Can Be Removed”

  1. Running from the past is stupid. In Russia, President Putin told people to discuss the Stalinist Era and what went wrong. If you can’t discuss what went wrong in the past you won’t know how to prevent it from happening all over again.

    1. Since nobody will ever find anyone who disagrees with THAT, the trick will be figuring out what it means to do with the monument.

  2. I’m reading about the Lewis and Clark expedition and I didn’t see any of these references to extermination / murder … . Was this a subsequent trip taken by Clark when these orders were given? Much of what I am reading are from their journals (also encounters from perspective of Native Americans) – in my reading the encounters with Native Americans were mixed some friendly some violent (including allying with a friendly tribe engaged in battles against their tribal enemies). Our nation has much to learn, admit, and remedy in its actions toward Native Americans. I think all historic monuments should provide a more complete story of the person and the events pictured. Any opportunity to do so should be used. We owe it to ourselves and to all our victims to reconcile these events in our history. We will not truly be a whole until we do.

    1. I guess we could start with George Rogers Clark and William Clark not being the same person. But William Clark played a role in the genocide long after his famous expedition.

      1. blush – thanks for the clarification – so much to learn about our nation’s actions against Native Americans (and others) who got/get in our way. What can we do to make our views about adding context to monuments such as this one known to those making the decisions? [Mind you I think some monuments, put up in times of renewed struggle to glorify / ‘fix’ (white wash) history (the motivation I see for many Confederate monuments), may best be just removed from public spaces rather than allowing them to remain while adding complete context.

        1. not to worry — the Thou Shalt Not Erase History people typically know less than anyone and desire to learn even less

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