With symbols of any kind becoming increasingly divisive, the fact that so much care and cooperation is being put into the potential relocation of the Marcus Whitman statue in Walla Walla sends the right message.
In 2019, Senate Bill 5237 was introduced by state Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle and proposed the removal of statues of pioneer missionary Marcus Whitman from the nation’s Capitol and in Olympia. The bill passed, and now they’re being replaced by statues of beloved environmental activist and Nisqually tribal leader Billy Frank Jr.
Here at home, a team of art researchers proposed in September of 2020 removing the Whitman statue from its spot downtown and relocating it to the Fort Walla Walla Museum, where the group says its true context can be shared. A meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 19, from 5 to 7 p.m., “so residents can provide comments on what should be done with the statue,” U-B reporter Emry Dinman wrote. After this meeting, the Arts Commission will recommend to the Walla Walla City Council — which has final say on the statue’s placement — what is deemed the best course of action.
A sensible move.
It is also heartening to know that the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have also been in support of thoughtfully considering what to do with the local Whitman statue since early last year.
We look forward to seeing how these efforts inform and engage the local community.
As we’ve said before, the history of the Whitman statues in Washington, D.C., Olympia and downtown are worthy of all the time and consideration we can give them. The collaboration already displayed in this process gives us hope for the future of our local historical sculpture.