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Title: The Chief: An Investigative Report on Racial and Ethnic Tension in Durango, Colorado
October 10, 2020
In 2017, The Economist wrote that “Americans are riven by mutual incomprehension.” Since then, the country has become even more polarized. The divide between social classes, ethnicities, genders, and other posionalities has grown deeper and deeper in recent years. And although social division is most studied nationally, it is lived through the experience of local communities. Durango, Colorado, which was carved out of Native land by the forces of imperialistic manifest destiny, is a good example of how social divisions play out in local towns.
“The Chief” is a caricature of a Native man that stands on 9th Street in downtown Durango, CO. It has a long history in Durango, and is symbolic of the uncomfortable legacies of colonialism. Currently, the statue points to the parking lot of Toh-Atin Gallery, a local business that sells indigenious art. The business is owned by well-to-do members of the area. “The Chief” represents one example of the ideological collision that America is experiencing. The Black Lives Matter protests, Charlottesville, Donald Trump, George Floyd, and countless others have created battlegrounds of culture with two distinct sides. A similar controversy has emerged over “The Chief”, which a growing number of residents would like to see removed. These individuals claim the statue is a racist monument of white supremacy and imperialism, while the other side--including the owners--argues it is an honorific or harmless piece of private art.
I propose an investigative journalism report of the controversy surrounding the statue in order to better understand the roots of social divisions affecting Durango, and the nation. I will interview people organizing against the statue, and I will also make attempts to sit down with the shop owners and others who support the statue. Additionally, I will attend marches and rallies against the statue in order to observe the controversy in real time. Finally, I will examine the semantic framework of existing petitions and letters to the Durango Herald.
After conducting interviews and observations, I will write an investigative report summarizing my findings and I will apply to present my work at the Ethnography in Education Research Forum. This conference is ideal because the theme in 2021 is, “Ethnography and Racial Justice.” The symposium will be held virtually on February 26th and 27th. I believe my work is urgent. The United States is experiencing deep division and we need to research local examples of this tension in order to find ways to overcome it.