Four city councilors announced Tuesday they will withdraw their proposal to rebuild the Soldiers’ Monument on the Santa Fe Plaza, dropping the plan a week after an emotional hearing underscored the pain and anger that still surrounds the site.
The mayor and City Council adjourned last week without voting on the plan but scheduled a special meeting at 7 pm Wednesday to discuss the future of the landmark, which was partly toppled by protesters on Indigenous Peoples Day in 2020.
Built in the 19th century, the obelisk honors soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War and who fought Indigenous people, who are described in racist terms on the base of the monument.
The resolution unveiled in February called for rebuilding the obelisk—though it might not look exactly as it did in the past—and installing four new plaques on the site, with wording to be drafted in part by a newly created Office of Equity and Inclusion.
Councilors backing the plan said it drew on the report that came out of a lengthy community engagement process the city launched after the monument was partly destroyed, known as the CHART process.
But the proposal caught Indigenous community leaders by surprise.
A crowd packed last Wednesday’s City Council meeting as local residents lined up to denounce the plan. Some attendees jeered the council and one another. Even some who supported rebuilding the monument argued the city’s plan fell short. The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission voted unanimously to oppose the plan. A petition backed by groups including the Santa Fe Indigenous Center and the Three Sisters Collective called for halting the plan and for the city to engage in continued dialogue that includes Indigenous voices.
“We’ve heard from a lot of people formally and informally and I think there’s just a general feeling it would be a good move to step back and let the temperature drop a bit and ruminate on what’s been said and maybe with time, a path forward will present itself,” District 2 Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth tells SFR.
Romero-Wirth was one of the original sponsors of the resolution to rebuild the obelisk, along with Renee Villarreal, Chris Rivera and Amanda Chavez. She says they will formally withdraw the resolution at the special council meeting planned for Wednesday evening.
Romero-Wirth says the councilors still want to see the city create an Office of Equity and Inclusion, which was part of the resolution. They plan to introduce a redrafted resolution focused only on creating that office.
“There’s important work that office can do and it doesn’t need to start with the obelisk,” Romero-Wirth says.
The next steps for the monument remain unclear. Some councilors have said they want to get rid of the box that currently covers the site.
But the city’s own community engagement process made clear that residents who participated hold very different views of the issue. Nearly 32% of Santa Feans surveyed as part of the report wanted the monument restored with its original signage and additional language that “encourages it to be fully understood and assessed.” But 33% called for replacing what’s left of the monument with something else. About 12% simply wanted the monument restored with its original signage, another 11% wanted the monument restored with different signage.
The report called for the city to work towards a resolution of the two most favored options.
Still, some councilors appear to have little interest in something like another CHART process.
“I’m not interested in spending another $250,000 to do another lengthy process,” District 3 Councilor Chris Rivera tells SFR.