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Gov. Kathy Hochul Announces Plans To Remove “Offensive” Artwork From State Capitol

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Gov. Kathy Hochul Announces Plans To Remove “Offensive” Artwork From State Capitol
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Gov. Kathy Hochul Announces Plans To Remove “Offensive” Artwork From State Capitol

Source: Alamy

New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul recently revealed plans to potentially remove much of the famous artwork from the state’s capitol building in Albany.

Naturally, there is debate as to whether or not Governor Hochul can do this. However, she believes that Native American residents of the state find the depictions offensive, so, therefore, they shouldn’t be in a government building.

History of The Government Building Mural 

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Murals in government buildings like in Albany weren’t always commonplace. They became more popular in the United States after their use in the Mexican Revolution in 1920. 
Artists used mural painting to express cultural ideas and as an effective form of awareness activism. Government murals caught on after the Great Depression when the government commissioned them to provide funding for artists like painters and musicians.

The Offensive Albany Artwork 

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Once inside the capitol building in Albany, you are greeted by a floor-to-ceiling mural in the reception area. The nearly 100-year-old mural, painted by William de Leftwich Dodge, depicts some of the earliest battles on New York State soil between the Indigenous population and colonizers.

Meet The Painter, William de Leftwich Dodge

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William de Leftwich Dodge was an artist born in Bedford County, Virginia in 1867. His love for art and murals won him fame. As a famous mural painter, he created works on public and private buildings of many subjects.
Mural painting peaked in popularity when he was working, and he famously completed a series of mural paintings for the Library of Congress. He passed away in New York City at the age of 68.

A Colonizer Created the Painting

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The scenes depicted in the giant painting clearly show colonizers in the act of killing Native Americans. In one scene, the script blatantly says, “Champlain Killing First Indian.”
Gov. Hochul said in a recent statement: “Indigenous peoples, in particular, are often depicted in artworks in a manner that reflects harmful racial stereotypes and glorifies violence against Indigenous peoples. Such depictions do not reflect the values of New York State.” This is why she believes it’s time to “reassess.”

Indigenous Feelings On Representation

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A study by the University of Michigan from 2020 found that 65 percent of native respondents were offended by sports fans imitating the “tomahawk chop.” Over half of them also said they were offended by the name of the Redskin’s baseball team.
A study by the University of Michigan from 2020 found that 65 percent of native respondents were offended by sports fans imitating the “tomahawk chop.” Over half of them also said they were offended by the name of the Redskin’s baseball team.

Hochul thinks “all New Yorkers should feel welcome and respected when visiting the state capitol. Unfortunately, offensive imagery and distasteful representations of populations in the art which adorns the capitol can alienate visitors.”

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Hochul thinks “all New Yorkers should feel welcome and respected when visiting the state capitol. Unfortunately, offensive imagery and distasteful representations of populations in the art which adorns the capitol can alienate visitors.”
She also seems to be spot on in her belief that many Native Americans in New York do not appreciate the offensive paintings.

Albany Has a History of Racism Towards Indigenes

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Present-day Albany, New York, was originally held by the Algonquin Mahican and Iroquoian Mohawk tribes. After 1609, when English and Dutch settlers started to explore and settle the land, clashes among Native Nation peoples occurred. 
When Europeans moved in to colonize the area and conduct trade, the region became destabilized. Eventually, the United States government resettled the land in Southern New York and forcibly evicted the Iroquois and other native residents there.

Many Native American Activists Have Complained

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Hochul and her administration have received complaints from several Native American activists who have visited the capitol building in Albany about the paintings. 
Counselor of the Seneca Nation, JC Seneca, expressed “disgust” when he saw the painting, explaining, “It’s braggadocios about killing my people. They killed a lot of our people and stole a lot of our land.”

Activist Rallies

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Indigenous activists see the continued existence of racist murals and monuments as a sign that America still fosters discrimination. When government action to remove demands is not forthcoming, they often hold rallies to put pressure on them.
In 2020, activists held a rally in Iowa to protest three offensive monuments still displayed there. One fact they all agreed on was that the capitol should be a welcoming place for all.

Gov. Hochul’s Plan to Replace the Existing Art with a Better Representation of New York

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According to the State of the State book, Governor Hochul won’t stop at removing the existing art; she also wants to replace it with a true representation of the state’s Indigenous people.
The statement reads, “To ensure that all New Yorkers are welcomed in the capitol, this year Gov. Hochul will commence a comprehensive review of artistic representation of Indigenous peoples in the capitol, with invited participation from representatives from each of the nine Indigenous Nations.”

Mural Replacements

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Activists have succeeded across the country in getting government in cities and states to repaint offensive murals. In San Francisco, a school district repainted a positive mural for Indigenous people instead of simply removing the offensive one. 
The original mural, “The Life of Washington,” was a depiction of a native person dead on the ground while pioneers stood by his corpse.

Gov. Hochul Has Gotten Rid of Native American Mascots

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Hochul’s decision to remove the Native American art she and many others deem as offensive is not that surprising.
In 2022, she also backed New York education officials when they decided to remove all Native American mascots that many found disrespectful from schools around the state.