DENVER (CBS4) – A statue people knocked over during the racial injustice protests at the Colorado State Capitol has a new home. The statue is of a Union soldier from the Civil War, but protesters objected to it because of the military’s role in the Sand Creek Massacre. The statue is now on display inside the History Colorado Center in Denver.
The statue and its base were repeatedly vandalized in May and June. Gov. Jared Polis had indicated it would be repaired and replaced because it honored those who fought to end slavery. That didn’t happen.
Museum officials said they understand the controversy, but that it’s important to open a conversation about the Centennial State’s history. On Facebook they wrote the following:
“Lonnie Bunch, the first African American and first historian to serve as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, said, “what you really want to do is use the statues as teachable moments. Some of these need to go. But others need to be taken into a park, into a museum, into a warehouse, and interpreted for people, because they’re part of our history.”
This week we installed the toppled Civil War monument from the State Capitol inside the History Colorado Center. Colorado was born in the midst of the Civil War and troops from the Colorado Territory fought for the Union Army. The Union Troops also used military force to clear Indigenous peoples from their homes and secure land for white settlement. On November 29, 1864, US cavalry regiments attacked a peaceful camp of Cheyenne and Arapaho people on Colorado’s eastern plains. It was the bloodiest day in Colorado history.
The bronze figure, named “On Guard,” was installed in 1909 on the west side of the State Capitol to honor Coloradans who’d served in the Union Army. Monuments represent the public values and particular agendas of their time even as they honor events of the past. In 2002 the State Legislature, in consultation with Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants of Sand Creek, added a plaque to the monument condemning the 1909 plaque’s mischaracterization of Sand Creek as a “battle” rather than an atrocity.
We want to make space for contemplation and consideration. The display is the beginning of a journey we hope to take with all Coloradans over the next 12 months. We invite museum visitors to share their opinions and responses to be documented and preserved by our staff.”