In light of recent nationwide efforts to remove problematic statues, the city of Plattsburgh re-evaluated one of its own: the Samuel de Champlain monument.
The relic shows the French explorer standing at the top, and a native American kneeling at the bottom. But instead of removing the statue, the city of Plattsburgh decided to take an alternative approach.
A new, educational panel now sits at the base as a way to provide more historical context about Plattsburgh’s native peoples.
Panel Chairman Gregory Huth was eager to unveil what took him and his colleagues two, long years to create.
“It’s like a dream come true for us,” said Huth.
Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read who says the relic serves to remember errors of the past.
“I had a friend who went to Auschwitz recently and lamented, ‘Why would that place be left standing?’ And the reason that place is left standing is so we can always remember forever exactly what occurred in that different era,” said Read.
Plattsburgh’s Co-city Historian says Champlain relied heavily on indigenous peoples as trading partners and explorers but, given the native American’s roughly formed figure, one would think otherwise.
“The overall attitude embodied by the monument is problematic by our standards today,” said Ellen Adams.
Adams confirmed Champlain was a “navigator” from the European perspective and could not have accomplished what he did without his native allies.
The panel is written in both English and French and serves to acknowledge the roles and contributions of Plattsburgh’s indigenous peoples.
“This, now, is an educational moment where we can have a chance to get this right and to explain why we may have been doing some misguided things in the past,” said Mayor Read.
Chairman Huth says he hopes the monument can be a symbol of togetherness.
“We’re trying to build bridges with acknowledging our native American forebears in this area and this country,” said Huth.
The educational panel is one of many inclusion efforts in Plattsburgh. In the works is a monument to honor the tribes that lived 11,000 years before the Europeans came over.