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Native American on controversial monuments: 'We face a real reckoning in this country'

Posted at 10:53 PM, Jul 07, 2020

A Native American of Pamunkey decent said he does not condone unlawfully destroying monuments, but added he can't support honoring historical figures such as Christopher Columbus.

Kiros Auld works for Native American Lifelines, which is an organization that offers help to Native Americans dealing with historical trauma. He said a statue of the Italian explorer, who killed and enslaved his ancestors, is difficult to stomach.

“It’s a hard alienating reminder that we find ourselves bearing the cost of western civilization that was born on our backs, on our bodies [and] our homelands," Auld said. "It’s a very estranging feeling to be in your homeland, or be a refugee from it, economically or politically, [and] to see a reminder of a very ugly history."

Auld supports the removal of the statues, but said he can't get behind people breaking the law. He said it should be done through a more "democratic process".

On Saturday, protesters tore down and threw the one honoring the Italian explorer in Little Italy into the Inner Harbor. The incident was captured on video and viewed by millions across the country.

State delegate Nino Mangione, who is also an Italian American, introduced a bill ahead of next year's legislation session called the Monuments Protection Act of 2021, which calls on a mandatory six month prison sentence and fines for anyone who destroys or damages a monuments, statues or memorials in the state.

"These are targets, these are historical priceless pieces of art as well and to see them being destroyed, it can't happen anymore...enough of the intolerable behavior," Del. Mangione said.

Mangione said he wants the statues of Christopher Columbus to stay. He said he can admit Columbus was imperfect, but believes his accomplishments are worth honoring.

"I can tell you this: he took an incredible risk on his journey 500 years ago and he brought the old world to the new world," he said. “They were horrible things that took place that at a time 500 years ago we can’t look through from the same lens as we do now.”

Both Auld and Del. Mangione views on history are world's apart, but the two agree that a conversation on this issue needs to happen.

“I’m open to having a discussion," Del. Mangione said. "You can bring in experts on both sides. At the end of the day, [removing statues] needs to be done in a lawful manner.”

“We face a real reckoning in this country as to how we got here, the cost of them, having an honest account of who still pays those cost and what kind of legacies we inherit," Auld said. "It won't change the hearts and the minds if we just remove them. However, we have an opportunity--a very real opportunity--that people should take to decide what values we should celebrate."