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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Native American Lawmakers Call For Removal Of Helena Confederate Memorial

Confederate memorial in Helena, MT.
Courtesy Tom Kilmer in Helena, MT
Confederate memorial in Helena, MT.

Native American lawmakers in Montana are calling for the removal of a memorial to Confederate soldiers in the state's capitol city.

The granite fountain in Helena's Hill Park has been the subject of debate in recent years, as other cities across the country decide the fate of monuments erected to honor the legacy of the Confederacy.

Representative Shane Morigeau, a Missoula Democrat, was one of eight members of the Native American legislative caucus to sign a letter Tuesday addressed to Helena city and state officials, asking for the fountain to be removed following weekend violence and a death at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"Obviously, spurred us to take a look at ourselves, take a look at Montana and kind of revisit some of the things we have ongoing in our own state," Morigeau

The letter says such monuments have "stood for segregation, secession, and slavery,” and asks city and state officials to recognize the “harmful message that this fountain sends to Indians, minorities, and all Montanans.”

Governor Steve Bullock says the statue is a city issue, and not a state one.

"Whether it’s ripped out and put in a museum or left with a sign clearly explaining how and why that fountain was erected a century ago, what’s important is that in 2017 it’s clear we as Montanans do not glorify some of the darkest chapters of our past or tolerate the hate and racism that a small fringe of our society continues to spew," Bullock said.

City officials have said previously they did not plan to remove the memorial, which was donated to the city in 1916 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a Virginia-based group of women descended from confederate soldiers who are dedicated to preserving confederate history.

City officials decided instead in 2015 to add an interpretive sign to contextualize the monument’s history, but that sign has not yet been installed. The fountain is the only Confederate monument in the northwest United States.

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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