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Watch: Decolonizing the American Museum of Natural History

On Columbus Day, indigenous rights demonstrators in New York raised their voices.

Indypendent Staff Oct 10

On Monday, participants in the traditional Columbus Day Parade were greeted by protests as they paraded down Fifth Avenue in the rain. The demonstrators called for the removal of Christopher Columbus’s statue in Midtown, for the holiday to be renamed Indigenous Peoples Day and for a general recognition of and respect for lives lost in the genocidal conquest of the Americas that the explorer initiated.

As part of an offshoot of the protest, indigenous rights activists and their supporters across town stormed the American Museum of Natural History, conducting a boisterous “Anti-Columbus Day Tour” in the museum’s normally quiet environs. Participants used indigenous artifacts as prompts to, as one activist put it, tell “the story of our history through our lens … Not a colonized lens.” They also called for the removal of a statue greeting visitors at the museum’s entrance that features President Theodore Roosevelt riding a horse, flanked by stereotypical depictions of an American Indian and African American on foot.

“[T]he statue is a stark embodiment of the white patrician supremacy that Roosevelt himself espoused and promoted and is an affront to all who enter the museum,” Decolonize This Place, which organized the tour, wrote in an open letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio. The de Blasio administration is currently conducting a review — to be completed after November’s mayoral election — that purportedly seeks to ascertain the cultural appropriateness of the city’s statues.

Decolonize This Place is a grassroots group focused on indigenous rights, black liberation, Palestinian solidarity, global wage workers and de-gentrification. The following video of the Columbus Day protest was produced for The Indypendent by Wops, a collective of activists, researchers and filmmakers documenting the work of grassroots movements across the country.

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Photo credit (top): Decolonize This Place/Twitter.