As members of the American Indian Caucus of the Montana Legislature, we extend our condolences to the family of Heather Heyer, who lost her life protesting hate and bigotry in Charlottesville, Virginia. Our hearts also go out to the families of Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates of the Virginia State Police, who lost their lives while monitoring the rally. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charlottesville and those across this great country who have been hurt physically and emotionally by the despicable actions exhibited by white nationalists.
White nationalists, neo-Nazis, alt-right, and any other groups that propagate hate, discrimination, violence and bigotry, have no place in our country. These groups dishonor the basic principles of equality on which this nation exists. Advocating hate through violence is terrorism and shouldn’t be labeled as anything less. Generations of soldiers and civilians have given their lives fighting for equality. We are grateful to our veterans, our active military members, and those who lost their lives serving and defending our Constitution and country.
Our ancestors fought and our family members still fight for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thousands of American Indian soldiers fought for the Union Army to end slavery, and thousands more fought fascism and genocide in World War II. American Indians will continue the fight against those who are misguided enough to perpetuate those beliefs.
Today, we must recognize the fact that the Confederacy and its symbolism has stood for segregation, secession and slavery. The Confederate flag was even used by the Dixiecrats, a segregationist political party of the 1940s. The flag continues to serve as an emblem for racism and racial inequality for domestic terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other white nationalist organizations.
That is why we call upon the Helena City Commission and all of our statewide officials to step up and remove the Confederate Memorial Fountain from Helena, Montana, our capital city. The fountain was commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization that openly supported the white supremacist views and mission of the early Ku Klux Klan. This is the only Confederate monument in the northwestern United States.
It is especially troubling that although the commission voted more than two years ago to add a sign explaining the history of the monument and its roots in a racist movement, city staff has not yet been able to complete this task.
We ask that you all recognize the harmful message that this fountain sends to Indians, minorities and all Montanans of this great state. Please take a stand and recognize that this fountain is a divisive symbol in Montana and represents a history that our country and citizens have repeatedly fought against.
Public property in Montana should not be used to promote Nazism, fascism, totalitarianism, separatism or racism. Please send a message that there is no hate in our state by removing this divisive memorabilia from the capital city.
Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, represents House District 95 in the Montana Legislature. This opinion is also signed by Sen. Jason Small, Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, Rep. Bridget Smith, Rep. George Kipp III, Rep. Susan Webber, Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy and Rep. Rae Peppers.