Group of State Legislators Urges Removal of Confederate Memorial in Helena
The ongoing nationwide discussion about confederate memorials in public spaces has arrived in Montana after a letter was sent this morning, August 15, asking for the removal of a fountain in Helena that was put up by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1916. Missoula area legislator Shane Morigeau wrote the letter, explains...
"We called upon the commission to step up and remove it, we also explained, asking the commission to recognize the harmful message that [the fountain] sends to Indians and minorities and all of Montanans," said Missoula area legislator Shane Morigeau who wrote the letter. "When you see people, white nationalists, walking through, promoting violence in places throughout the country, you know, it's a discussion that brings up different things. I mean, we just had Richard Spencer in Whitefish not too long ago.
Morigeau was asked to respond to those who see the removal of these memorials as an erasure of history, he says he doesn't see it that way and says he thinks the discussion is a valuable one Montana needs to have.
"I don't think it is erasing history, I mean, is that in a museum?," Morigeau said. "When we have it in public places we are saying, 'hey, we're going to honor people that fought for slavery.' If the confederacy would have won, there would likely be slaves to this day. I think the message that this sends is that this was a tragic moment in history, but, we're still memorializing people that went out and fought for, well, really, the main crux of it was slavery."
Though written by Morigeau, the letter was signed onto by seven other state legislators and was addressed to the Helena City Commission. You can read it in full below:
It’s Time to Remove the Confederate Memorial From Our Capital City
As members of the American Indian Caucus of the Montana Legislature, we extend our condolences to the family of Heather Heyer, who lost her life protesting hate and bigotry in Charlottesville, Va. Our hearts also go out to the families of Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates of the Virginia State Police, who lost their lives while monitoring the rally. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charlottesville and those across this great country who have been hurt physically and emotionally by the despicable actions exhibited by white nationalists.
White nationalists, neo-Nazis, alt-right, and any other groups that propagate hate, discrimination, violence and bigotry, have no place in our country. These groups dishonor the basic principles of equality on which this nation exists. Advocating hate through violence is terrorism and shouldn’t be labeled as anything less. Generations of soldiers and civilians have given their lives fighting for equality. We are grateful to our veterans, our active military members, and those who lost their lives serving and defending our Constitution and country.
Our ancestors fought and our family members still fight for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thousands of American Indian soldiers fought for the Union Army to end slavery, and thousands more fought fascism and genocide in World War II. American Indians will continue the fight against those who are misguided enough to perpetuate those beliefs.
Today, we must recognize the fact that the Confederacy and its symbolism has stood for segregation, secession, and slavery. The Confederate flag was even used by the Dixiecrats, a segregationist political party of the 1940s. The flag continues to serve as an emblem for racism and racial inequality for domestic terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other white nationalist organizations.
That is why we call upon the Helena City Commission and all of our statewide officials to step up and remove the Confederate Memorial Fountain from Helena, Montana, our capital city. The fountain was commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization that openly supported the white supremacist views and mission of the early Ku Klux Klan. This is the only Confederate monument in the northwestern United States.
It is especially troubling that although the Commission voted more than two years ago to add a sign explaining the history of the monument and its roots in a racist movement, city staff has not yet been able to complete this task.
By Rep. Shane Morigeau
Also signed by Sen. Jason Small, Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, Rep. Bridget Smith, Rep. George Kipp III, Rep. Susan Webber, Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy and Rep. Rae Peppers