St. Charles City Withdraws Proposal For Controversial Lewis and Clark Statue

Oct 5, 2021 at 1:24 pm
Charlottesville, Virginia removed its statue of Lewis and Clark over its depiction of Sacagawea in July. -  Bob Travis / Flickr
Charlottesville, Virginia removed its statue of Lewis and Clark over its depiction of Sacagawea in July.

St. Charles won't be getting a new statue, after all. St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer says a lackluster fundraiser turnout and controversy surrounding the statue were two reasons he has withdrawn the city’s proposal to obtain a controversial depiction of explorers Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Native American Sacagawea crouched below the two.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday morning that Borgmeyer gave those reasons and said the city pulled the proposal as the “battle wasn’t worth the toll it was taking as far as publicity and everything else.”

The mayor championed the statue over the summer, telling the Riverfront Times St. Charles is “very much a Lewis and Clark city” and while the statue was open for interpretation, he didn’t see it as offensive.

But, the statue, titled “Their First View of the Pacific,” was taken down by Charlottesville, Virginia due to backlash from Sacagawea’s descendants amidst a flurry of removals that included statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

Critics had said the statue portrayed Sacagawea as “subservient.” Willow Abrahamson, a descendant of Sacagawea's, said in a November 2019 meeting with the city council that the statue depicts a lie and minimized the Native American guide’s contributions. Borgmeyer said the city of St. Charles had received support from a different descendant of Sacagawea that lives in the town.

Charlottesville had required those vying for the statue to submit a proposal on how they will “re-contextualize” the statue of Sacagawea.

“The driving factor for us,” Charlottesville Councilor Michael Payne told Charlottesville Tomorrow in early August, “is just ensuring that wherever it ends up is centering the narrative of the indigenous community and including that in the re-interpretation.”

The proposal for St. Charles had included a bronze plaque that listed Sacagawea's contributions to the expedition. Borgmeyer had told the Riverfront Times the city said that Charlottesville’s local Lewis and Clark exploratory center was the proposal to beat.

St. Charles had also faced backlash from the community on its Facebook page, with comments calling for the city to stop posting about the fundraiser and that while some would love a statue of Sacagawea, it needed to look different.

The fundraiser ultimately fell flat of its $50,000 goal, with only $3,960 raised to relocate the statue. Borgmeyer had told the RFT that all money will be returned to the 54 donors.

The city currently has one major Lewis and Clark statue, sitting 15-feet tall in Frontier Park, and a museum dedicated to the two explorers also on the riverfront.

Follow Jenna on Twitter at @writesjenna. Email the author at [email protected]
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