Indigenous statue in Charlemont should go

Published: 03-09-2023 4:43 PM

I’ve been following with interest the fate of the statue outside the Native and Himalayan Views shop on Route 2 in Charlemont. I love kitschy folk art and found it humorous, but in reality a Cigar Store Indian as advertisement is not any more appropriate than a large statue of Aunt Jemima outside a pancake house.

Many people are unaware that their beliefs are manipulated by stereotypical images. But given the right venue (probably not roadside kiosks) items of racial and gender stereotypes can be shocking, informative, and transformative. This is often the case with folk art exhibits. Rather than destroy an example of where we were and should no longer be, perhaps it’s time to re-home the statue to a museum explaining the intent and harm of these stereotypes.

Whether modification or removal is the plan, I applaud Rhonda Anderson and Tomantha Sylvester’s efforts to rectify a situation they feel is unacceptable. It sounds like they’ve got plans for what they’d like to do with Sonam Lama’s property and have access to financing for whatever changes need to be made. Hopefully they can provide a plan that Sonam Lama is satisfied with, as well as give contractual assurances to the Lamas and the town that the project will be funded throught to a swift completion.

It’s past time that the Cigar Store Indian left his post. With guidance and funding from Rhonda Anderson, Tomantha Sylvester, and the groups they represent, an attractive and more acceptable option can be achieved. Hopefully the Recorder will keep readers updated.

Clarissa Spawn