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Marchers rally to remove cartoonish depiction of Native American in Durango

About 100 participate in Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage
About 100 people marched through downtown Durango on Sunday in support of Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Durango Herald)

About 100 people marched Sunday through downtown Durango for Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage.

Up and down the streets, those marching shouted phrases like, “Whose land? Natives’ land,” and “No pipelines on Indigenous lands.”

The “chief” sign in the west 100 block of Ninth Street across from Toh-Atin Gallery. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The event culminated with participants marching to the corner of Ninth Street and Narrow Gauge Avenue and chanting: “Take down the chief.”

The chant was in reference to the large metal sign on the corner that cartoonishly depicts a Native American and is used as an advertisement for Toh-Atin Gallery.

Attendees said the sign is a racist depiction of Indigenous people, and organizers of Sunday’s march have fought for some time to have the sign removed.

“It’s important to acknowledge the hurt that is still happening, and acknowledge that things can be changed,” said Trennie Collins, event organizer and member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. “I don’t like coming down this street. I really try to avoid it because for me it brings hurt, pain. ... It does harm and dehumanizes us as Indigenous people and that goes further than just me.”

According to organizers, an anonymous donor has made an offer to the owner of the Toh-Atin Gallery to pay for the sign’s removal and to put art made by Indigenous artists in its place. However, organizers said the gallery owner has refused.

“Nothing would come out of their pocket. Nothing would happen with their business, and they wouldn’t have to spend a dime trying to take this down,” Collins said.

Efforts to reach Jackson Clark, owner of Toh-Atin, were not immediately successful Sunday.

A banner is hung on the base of the “chief” sign outside Toh-Atin Gallery in downtown Durango. Participants in Sunday’s march for Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage said the cartoonish depiction of a Native American is racist and hurtful. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Durango Herald)

Underneath the sign, Native American residents shared their frustrations with the depiction, as well as the struggles of being an Indigenous person.

“It’s a public health issue,” said one organizer who declined to offer a name. “This kind of imagery affects mental health, it affects self-esteem. It supports self-harm and suicidal ideation. This is proven, but still this remains. It’s just a matter of spite on the part of this owner who feels attacked.”

In an effort to raise awareness about the sign, organizers handed out bags with the hashtag #notyourmascotdurango. Organizers asked those at the march to share the hashtag on their social media posts in an effort to bring down the sign.

Since 2016, the second Monday in October is recognized as Indigenous Peoples Day in Durango.

Alongside the frustration and anger Indigenous people and allies voiced, there was a strong message of pride.

“I want to thank my ancestors and the people that came before me to allow me to,” Collins said. “Without our ancestors, I wouldn’t be here. The fight they fought for us to be here, especially as Indigenous folks, that to me is sacred and means so much to me.”

njohnson@durangoherald.com

An earlier version of this story reversed the names of Jackson Clark. The error was made in editing.

Darrien Clitso thumbs through a stack of signs before a march to support Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage on Sunday in Durango. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Durango Herald)
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