Should Toh-Atin Get Rid of The Chief?

07/02/2020
NEWS BRIEFS
Southwest Colorado confirmed COVID-19 cases by county: La Plata (200 resident, 18 non-resident), Archuleta (36 resident, 31 non-resident), Montezuma (109), Dolores (1), San Juan (2). Deaths due to Covid: Montezuma (2), Deaths among cases: LaPlata (2), Montezuma (1), sjbpublichealth.org, montezumacounty.org
Colorado COVID-19 totals: 47,968 cases, 6,487 hospitalized, 1,844 deaths among cases, 1,710 deaths due to COVID-19, 548,808 tested, 483 outbreaks, colorado.gov

The Chief sign, familiar to many in the Four Corners, is the target of a protest campaign by those who believe it’s a racist depiction of Native Americans. The Clark family wants time to discuss the issue.

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THE OVERSIZED, MID-20TH CENTURY SIGN OF AN AMERICAN INDIAN MAN POINTING TO THE TOH-ATIN ART GALLERY AT NINTH STREET AND NARROW GAUGE AVENUE IN DURANGO IS GENERATING A HEATED ONLINE DEBATE BETWEEN THOSE WHO SEE IT AS AN OUTDATED, RACIST DEPICTION OF NATIVE AMERICANS AND THOSE WHO SAY IT'S A PIECE OF DURANGO HISTORY THAT SHOULD BE PRESERVED. AND THE OWNERS SAY THEY'RE WILLING TO ENGAGE IN AN OPEN, TWO-WAY DISCUSSION ABOUT THE SIGN'S FUTURE, JUST NOT RIGHT NOW AS THEY STRUGGLE TO KEEP THEIR BUSINESS GOING DURING THE PANDEMIC. YOU'RE WATCHING THE LOCAL NEWS NETWORK, BROUGHT TO YOU BY CHOICE BUILDING SUPPLY IN CORTEZ AND FASTSIGNS OF DURANGO. I'M DEBORAH URODA. AS PROTESTERS NATIONWIDE TEAR DOWN MONUMENTS HONORING CONFEDERATE WAR HEROES OR THE SPANISH CONQUISTADORES WHO CONQUERED NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLES, A LOCAL GROUP CALLED DURANGO PEACE AND JUSTICE HAS LAUNCHED AN ONLINE PETITION ON CHANGE DOT ORG TO DEMAND THE IMMEDIATE REMOVAL OF THE CHIEF SIGN ON NINTH STREET BECAUSE IT DEPICTS A RACIST AND DEMEANING CARICATURE OF NATIVE AMERICANS. [p].THE PETITION HAD GARNERED NEARLY 47 HUNDRED SIGNATURES AS OF JUNE 30. AT THE SAME TIME, A COMPETING PETITION LAUNCHED BY DURANGO NATIVE KEARSTY WEGHER HAS GATHERED NEARLY 35 HUNDRED SIGNATURES FROM THOSE WHO SEE THE SIGN AS A VALUED PIECE OF DURANGO HISTORY THAT SHOULD BE PRESERVED. AND WHILE THE FIFTH-GENERATION LA PLATA COUNTY FAMILY THAT OWNS THE SIGN IS WILLING TO ENTERTAIN A DISCUSSION ABOUT ITS FUTURE, THEY SAY THEY'D LIKE TO FOCUS RIGHT NOW ON KEEPING THEIR BUSINESS OPEN THROUGH THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC TO PROVIDE A MARKET FOR THE VERY NATIVE AMERICAN ARTISANS THE PROTESTERS SAY THEY'RE INSULTING.
RIGHT NOW, WE ARE, WE'VE BEEN CLOSED FOR THREE AND A HALF MONTHS. AND OUR ARTISTS ARE REALLY IN A BAD SPOT. THEY'RE THERE. IF THE NAVAJO NATION WAS A STATE, THEY WOULD HAVE ONE OF THE LARGEST PER CAPITA RATES OF COVID. SO THEY ARE, THEY'RE IN A BAD SPOT THERE. THEIR RELATIVES ARE DYING, AND THEY DON'T HAVE ANY MONEY. THEY DON'T COLLECT UNEMPLOYMENT LIKE THE REST OF AMERICA. 'CAUSE SO, SO WHEN THEY SHOW UP, WHEN WE, ONCE WE OPEN, THEY'RE GOING TO SHOW UP, THEY'RE GOING TO NEED FOR US TO BUY THEIR PRODUCTS. AND WE REALLY WANT TO DO THAT, BUT WE'RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT IF WE CAN'T CONCENTRATE ON OUR BUSINESS. SO RIGHT NOW, AS IMPORTANT AS A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THIS IS, I FEEL LIKE IT COULD WAIT A WHILE. IT COULD TAKE SOME TIME AND WE COULD GET MORE INPUT FROM A LOT OF DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS. AND, AND THEN, WE WILL BE HAPPY TO HAVE A RESPECTFUL CONVERSATION. ANTONIA CLARK AND HER BROTHER, JACKSON CLARK THE SECOND, OWN AND OPERATE THE TOH-ATIN GALLERY, AN INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED DEALER OF WESTERN AND NATIVE AMERICAN ART. THEIR FAMILY'S ROOTS RUN DEEP IN DURANGO, THE FIRST SETTLING IN THE AREA AS THE TRAIN ARRIVED IN TOWN. THEIR FATHER, JACKSON CLARK, OWNED THE PEPSI COLA DISTRIBUTORSHIP IN THE AREA AND STARTED TRADING CASES OF PEPSI FOR NAVAJO WEAVINGS ON THE NAVAJO NATION IN THE 1950s. HE OPENED THE FIRST TOH-ATIN GALLERY AT THE PEPSI WAREHOUSE AND MOVED ITS LOCATION TO DOWNTOWN IN THE EARLY 1980s. ACCORDING TO AN ARTICLE WRITTEN IN THE DURANGO HERALD BY THE LA PLATA COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY, THE CHIEF WAS INSTALLED IN 1948 TO BRING ATTENTION TO THE CHIEF DINER, THEN LOCATED AT THE CORNER OF 22ND STREET AND MAIN AVENUE. IT WAS A POPULAR RESTAURANT THAT SERVED AS A CENTRAL GATHERING SPOT FOR NAVAJO, UTE, APACHE AND PUEBLO FAMILIES DURING FIESTA DAYS, A CELEBRATION OF DURANGO'S WESTERN HERITAGE. AND MANY LONGTIME DURANGO RESIDENTS REMEMBER DINING THERE WITH THEIR FAMILIES AS WELL.
AND WE HAVE HAD HUNDREDS OF EITHER PHONE CALLS OR EMAILS FROM PEOPLE TELLING US THAT THEY SUPPORT KEEPING THE CHIEF, AND IT IS HISTORIC. AND, AND I HAVE HEARD SOME UNBELIEVABLE STORIES ABOUT PEOPLE GOING TO THE CHIEF DINER WHEN THEIR FAMILY REALLY HARDLY HAD ANY MONEY TO GO OUT TO DINNER. BUT EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, THEY'D GO TO THE CHIEF DINER. HOW SPECIAL WAS THAT? ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN, THE NATIVE PEOPLE THAT WE WORK WITH, THAT WE BUY FROM, AND THAT WE, WE KNOW AND LOVE, THEY, THEY LIKE THE CHIEF. WE'VE HAD WEAVERS WHO HAVE WOVEN WEAVINGS OF THE CHIEF TO GIVE TO MY BROTHER AS A GIFT. WHEN THE DINER CLOSED AND WAS ABOUT TO BE RAZED IN 1983, THE CLARK FAMILY PURCHASED THE CHIEF AND INSTALLED IT AT THEIR PARKING LOT ACROSS THE STREET TO PRESERVE A BELOVED PIECE OF DURANGO HISTORY. CLARK SAYS THE SIGN IS A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF THE TYPES OF SIGNS THAT CROPPED UP EVERYWHERE DURING THE MID-20TH CENTURY AS AMERICA'S NEW HIGHWAY SYSTEM BEGAN TO EXPAND. THE OVERSIZED, COLORFUL SIGNS WERE DESIGNED TO ATTRACT A TRAVELING PUBLIC TO STOP FOR THE NIGHT, TAKE A LUNCH BREAK AT A LOCAL DINER, OR SEE THE WORLD'S BIGGEST RATTLESNAKE AT A ROADSIDE ATTRACTION. IN DURANGO, THE CHIEF DOMINATED THE CITY SCAPE AS A RESTAURANT SIGN, AND LATER, THE CLARKS SAID THE CHIEF BECAME A WELCOMING SYMBOL FOR TRAVELING NATIVE AMERICANS WHO KNEW THEY COULD GET ASSISTANCE AT THE GALLERY.
I KEEP SAYING IT, YOU KNOW, IT'S KIND OF LIKE FOLK ART. I MEAN, IT IS LIKE SOMEBODY SAID, IT IS THE ART OF THAT ERA. WOULD YOU TAKE ALL THE ART OF THE 1950S AND CHOP IT UP OR BURN IT UP? BECAUSE IT WAS FROM A DIFFERENT ERA? NO, IT'S, THAT'S THE ART OF THAT ERA. WE HAVE ART OF THIS ERA THAT IS VERY SIMILAR. IT'S FOLK ART. IT'S, IT'S NOT NECESSARILY COMICS. IT'S NOT MAKING FUN OF ANYBODY. IT'S, IT'S JUST, YOU KNOW, IT'S JUST WHAT IT IS. AND I CAN TELL YOU THAT PEOPLE, PEOPLE, LOCAL PEOPLE WHO ARE ANGLO PEOPLE, AND NATIVE PEOPLE WHO AREN'T, ARE NOT LOCALS. THEY JUST THINK IT'S RIDICULOUS. THE IDEA OF TEARING DOWN THE CHIEF, THEY JUST THINK IS RIDICULOUS.IN THE MEANTIME, THE CITY OF DURANGO'S COMMUNITY RELATIONS COMMISSION IS HOLDING LISTENING SESSIONS ON THE SIGN, AND DURANGO MAYOR DEAN BROOKIE ANNOUNCED AT A RECENT CITY COUNCIL MEETING THAT HE THINKS THE COUNCIL SHOULD WEIGH IN ON THE ISSUE, ALTHOUGH NO FORMAL STATEMENT HAS BEEN APPROVED. THE CLARKS SAY THEY'RE WILLING TO ENGAGE IN AN OPEN, TWO-WAY DISCUSSION ABOUT THE SIGN'S FUTURE, BUT THEY'RE ASKING FOR THE COMMUNITY'S PATIENCE AS THEY ATTEMPT TO SURVIVE THE PANDEMIC'S RAVAGES ON THEIR BUSINESS . . . AND THEIR EFFORTS TO PRESERVE AND PROMOTE NATIVE AMERICAN ARTS AND CULTURE.
WE'RE LOOKING FOR SOME IDEAS REALLY. I THINK, I THINK OUR BIGGEST PROBLEM IS THAT,  THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TAKE IT DOWN, IT'S LIKE IT HAS TO HAPPEN, LIKE RIGHT NOW. YOU HAVE TO TAKE THIS DOWN RIGHT NOW. WELL, WE'RE PRETTY BUSY. AND ALSO, YOU KNOW, LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME DIFFERENT THINGS. EVERYBODY THAT WANTS TO TAKE IT DOWN, DOESN'T, NOBODY'S OFFERING ANY SOLUTIONS AND, AND WE WANT TO TALK TO PEOPLE.IF YOU'D LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE CLARK FAMILY AND THE TOH-ATIN GALLERY, VISIT T O H DASH A T I N DOT COM. THANKS FOR WATCHING THIS EDITION OF THE LOCAL NEWS NETWORK. I'M DEBORAH URODA.

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