City of Walla Walla to Consider Marcus Whitman Statue Removal Request at Meeting Next Week | Local news
The town of Walla Walla will soon consider a resident’s request to remove a statue of Marcus Whitman, the physician and missionary who established a mission nearly 200 years ago just west of what is now Walla Walla.
The fate of the statue, currently located near the west entrance to the Whitman College campus, will be reviewed by the Walla Walla Arts Commission before a final decision is made by city council. A special meeting of the Arts Commission will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 19, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., so residents can provide feedback on what should be done with the statue.
A limited number of seats in city council rooms will be available for in-person presence, although participants must wear face masks or a face shield to attend. A live video and audio feed of the meeting will be available on the city’s website at wallawallawa.gov/citycouncil.
Members of the public can also participate via Zoom at ubne.ws/marcuswhitman or by calling 253-215-8782 and entering the meeting ID 864 7434 2571 #.
Written comments can be submitted to [email protected] or sent to 15 N. Third Ave., Walla Walla, WA 99362. Comments should be submitted by noon Thursday, January 13, to be included in the meeting file for arts Commission.
After the meeting, the Arts Commission will make a recommendation to city council, which has final authority over the statue.
The process of removing or removing the statue of Marcus Whitman was started by a resident who submitted a request to the city in October. This process, which allows a city resident to request reconsideration of any public art work owned by the city, was created specifically in response to complaints about the Whitman statue, Deputy City Manager Elizabeth Chamberlain told the UB.
In 2020, a local team of art researchers offered to remove the Whitman statue and move it to the Fort Walla Walla Museum.
“The statue tells us a lot, and it has a rich and fascinating history, but again, this story is not the story of Marcus Whitman, it is not the story of the Walla Walla Valley and this is not the story of Whitman College, “said Libby Miller, director of the Maxey Museum at Whitman College and professor of art history at a meeting of the Town of Walla Walla arts commission. in September 2020.
The statue, according to Miller and his team, does not represent the historical figure, a medical missionary of the 1800s.
Instead, the depiction comes across more as a symbol of “border mythology,” commonly seen in popular culture from TV shows and artwork when the statue was created in the 1950s.
Whitman has also been criticized in recent years for his role in colonizing the area, helping to establish the Oregon Trail and initiating a measles outbreak that has killed Indigenous people.
The Marcus Whitman statue is not the only depiction of a historical figure that has come under new scrutiny by some residents. Some have argued for the removal of a Christopher Columbus statue outside the county courthouse near downtown Walla Walla, as part of a nationwide re-examination of the explorer’s impacts on the indigenous peoples he encountered.
In 2020, the statue was vandalized with the words “stolen land” and “genocide” spray painted on its base.
Walla Walla County Commissioners initially agreed in 2020 for a public meeting in person to allow residents to openly discuss the fate of the Columbus statue, although this meeting has been delayed due to the pandemic. In August 2021, the commissioners outright canceled that meeting, instead providing an email where residents could submit written comments, a move that drew criticism.
In October, commissioners voted to keep the statue of Christopher Columbus in front of the courthouse.
At that same meeting, the commissioners also voted to accept a second statue of Marcus Whitman, identical to the one on the Whitman College campus, which has been on display for seven decades in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, DC.
This statue is replaced by that of Billy Frank Jr., member of the Nisqually tribe and environmental activist.
It has not yet been announced where Whitman’s second statue will be placed, although County Commissioner Jenny Mayberry noted in October that it could take up to three years before it reaches Walla Walla County. .