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Arcata City Council holds study session about controversial McKinley statue

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ARCATA, Calif. - The Arcata City Council held a study session Monday to brainstorm ideas for the futures of two controversial items: The President William McKinley statue that sits in the center of the Arcata Plaza, as well as the plaque mounted on the plaza's Jacoby Building.

Before getting started, Arcata Mayor Susan Ornelas set some ground rules. She said, "We just want everyone to be respected and the two minutes to be respected."

The session took place at the D Street Neighborhood Center, and people on both sides of the issue filled the room.

The city officials had a plan: They offered options and planned a hypothetical vote on how to move forward.

The options for the McKinley's statue were: to keep the statue, add historical context to the statue, move the statue elsewhere on the Arcata Plaza, move the statue somewhere else in the city or remove it all together.

As for the Jacoby Building plaque, the city offered the following options: One was to keep the plaque, another option was to add a second plaque with an added Native American perspective or to replace it with Native American context.

The people for the removal of the plaque oppose the language on it. They said referring to mass murder of Native Americans as "Indian troubles" inaccurately portrays their history.

City Council member Michael Winkler said, "I'm very aware of the wording and I consider it totally racist and the word 'Indian troubles' is really just a code word for genocide."

But there was no decision made during the session. At the end of the meeting, it seemed people just wanted to talk.

One Arcata resident against the removal of the statue said, "It's a very nice statue, and it's part of our history, so leave the statue alone."

Another for the removal said, "With full authorization from Ted Hernandez, the Chairman of the Wiyot Tribe, he asked us to say these words... So that the Arcata Plaza is a place of blood and tears, and it's never been a safe place for native peoples, not even today, this is our truth and we know it."

For people opposing the statue, they said McKinley's imperialistic history, disregards the history of many local Native Americans. While people who want the statue to stay, they said history should not be replaced.

Mayor Ornelas said they will take all of the opinion into consideration. She said it is likely they will place the statue and plaque into the city council agenda, and if they do, it will likely be discussed in February.

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