The Christopher Columbus statue, which has generated controversy because of the explorer’s treatment of Native Americans, will not be removed from Tower Grove Park.
The St. Louis park instead will add signs and markers near the statue explaining the historical context of Columbus, colonization, as well as the history of the park, according to a Facebook post Wednesday.
“We will be putting context around it, so that it can be utilized as a conversation starter,” said Park Executive Director Bill Reininger. “But it goes beyond just a statue. We’re also working with Native Americans in order to find a way to recognize them and to celebrate the land as well.”
In 2018, the Tower Grove Park Board of Commissioners created an advisory task force, which included representatives of the Osage and Cherokee nations, other Native American tribes, the Hill Business Association, the Hill Neighborhood Association, Black Lives Matter, the Missouri Historical Society, the National Park Service and the St. Louis Art Museum.
The task force examined the park’s history in relation to the statue, as well as Columbus’ overall effect on Native Americans. It also gathered feedback through online surveys and park visitors and received roughly 600 responses.
Reininger said the views were mixed.
“When the statue commission met last year, it was more of an openness to hearing everybody’s opinions,” he said. “The overall public opinion of the statue varies. So there’s not been a consensus communitywide on actions or the significance of replacement of that statue.”
Chris Singer helped organize an effort last year for the removal of the statue, saying in part that Columbus’ treatment of Native Americans should not be celebrated.
“A statue to a person is an act of glorifying that person in some respect,” Singer told St. Louis Public Radio last year. “What Christopher Columbus represents, and what he did to the Taino people, is not something that needs to be glorified.”
Singer could not immediately be reached for comment about the statue staying.
While there is not a specific timeline for when the signs will be added, Reininger said the park is working with the Native American community and others on accurate wording as well as future plans to include their history in the park.
The statue was dedicated on Oct. 12, 1886, by its sculptor, Ferdinand von Miller.