No on Measure M is more than just opposing a statue
Erik Rydberg and his family have dealt with former President William Mckinley for longer than most of the Arcata community. Ryberg’s great-great grandfather was Chamoru, the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands and Guam.
Mckinley led the United States into the Spanish American war. The Navy took over the Philippines and set their sights on Guam. That’s when Ryberg’s great-great grandfather was sent on a Filipino fishing vessel to the U.S by his family.
Rydberg said he feels his connection to Mckinley is deep, unlike those who admire the statue. Rydberg’s said he feels resentment toward the “little known” former U.S. president.
“He represents the abolishment of the tribal governments, courts and land rights of many Indigenous tribes here in the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico,” Rydberg said.
Rydberg, and about 50 community members, gathered on Oct. 8 for Indigenous Peoples Day. They marched to Arcata plaza to support the removal of William Mckinley’s Statue and encourage others to vote no on Measure M.
Rydberg said he is focused on showing the significance of this statue’s history. Many don’t know the history of Mckinley, let alone George Zinder — the man who lobbied for the construction of the statue.
“This statue was put here by George Zinder, a man who owned a seven-year-old child,” Ryberg said. “This statue was put here by a child slave owner.”
This statue’s history is one that many don’t see resolved today. Julio Torres, a Humboldt State University graduate and activist musician, said this feeling resonates with people who are historically affected by these cultural and physical genocides.
“This is like being stabbed in the back, and then having the blade be pulled only halfway out,” Torres said. “It doesn’t allow for healing in the present.”
The statue is only one of the monuments to genocide that Rydberg wants to take on. Rydberg said many of the local community names are hurtful to those affected by atrocities committed by the U.S. government and citizens.
“First, it starts with names of towns and such, like Mckinleyville, Samoa and Manila,” he said. “Which were named after the colonization of Samoa and the Philippines.”
Sarah Torres, a local Filipino activist and musician, said she feels that people who support keeping the statue feel nostalgic.
“I think the misrepresentation of history, allows for nostalgia to thrive,” Torres said.
Rydberg said he wants people to understand this is not an attempt to erase history — it’s an attempt to correct it.
“If you want to talk about erasing history every town, waterway, mountain, every native name for everything in this country has been erased,” Rydberg said. “This is about returning history and honoring the first nations of this continent.”