The iconic Cherokee Native Statue at the corner of Cherokee and Jefferson was removed early Friday morning following a public meeting Thursday night where members of the Cherokee Street Community Improvement District (CID) voted to have it taken down.
A statement issued by the Cherokee CID said “The statue was commissioned in 1985 by the Cherokee Station Business Association to serve as a landmark for the street and its commercial district. However, the statue does not appropriately honor the indigenous communities that have called this land home.”
Martin Casas who owns Apotheosis Comics, located directly behind the statue and slated to open next week, said at the meeting “The Indian or the native statue represents something at the time it was created but it no longer represents that. Times have changed and the message behind [the statue] has changed. I think it’s time to turn the page.”
Another member in attendance said “I think that those of us that have been around a long time and those of us that have not been around a long time on Cherokee, certainly we’ve all seen a lot of change, and no matter which side of the issue you’re on it’s clear that it’s a distraction. Looking forward, collectively we should decide what Cherokee should represent. When I think of Cherokee I think of arts, food, and culture that culminates here in this district. I think getting rid of an icon of the past gives us an opportunity to build something new moving forward.”
15-year-old Nmivia Bentley who lives in Dutchtown attended the Cherokee CID meeting and disagreed with the decision to remove the statue. Immediately after the meeting she went with her mom to have her photo taken in front of it. She said “I just feel like it’s not bothering nobody. It represents Cherokee Street and I think it should stay” Nmivia’s mother, Juanita Bently said “I don’t know this street without it. But times are changing.”
The 13′ tall fiberglass statue was created by local artist and owner of Joe’s Cafe, Bill Christman. He was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2007 saying “To my everlasting mortification I was the sculptor of that.”
The statue was donated to the National Building Arts Center in Sauget, IL where it will be on display. The National Building Arts Center houses the nation’s largest and most diversified collection of building artifacts.