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'False stereotyping': Petition calls for removal of Rte. 2 statue depicting Indigenous man

A statue depicting a Native American man outside the Native and Himalayan Views shop in Charlemont, Massachusetts.
Alden Bourne
/
NEPM
A statue depicting a Native American man outside the Native and Himalayan Views shop in Charlemont, Massachusetts.

A push is under way to get a giant statue depicting a Native American man in western Massachusetts taken down.

The statue rises above the roof of a souvenir store called Native and Himalayan Views in Charlemont along Route 2. It was previously called the Big Indian Gift Shop.

Tomantha Sylvester lives nearby and has gathered more than 1,000 signatures on an online petition calling for the structure to be removed.

"It deals with false stereotyping of Indigenous people and there are heavy repercussions that brings to both Native and non-Native communities," said Sylvester, a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Sylvester said the figure was not made by Indigenous communities and comes from "a time when these types of images were used to mock us and they were used to degrade us and dehumanize us."

The store is owned by Sonam Lama and his wife.

Lama said he'd like to meet with those opposed to the statue and discuss possible changes including the skin color, clothing, and the object the man is holding, so that the figure looks like Lama, who is a stonemason from Tibet.

"I don't want to bother people so I want to change it," he said.

Sylvester said she's willing to meet with Lama. She said she'd also like to discuss some "problematic items" for sale in the shop.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.