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Indigenous ex-senator who brought monument protection laws defends Andrew Jackson statue despite gory history

Ben Nighthorse Campbell stated that people should 'not be destroying old artifacts, whether we agree with them or not'
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, statue of Andrew Jackson (Getty Images)
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, statue of Andrew Jackson (Getty Images)

Former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), who sponsored a 2003 law protecting federal monuments, on Thursday, June 25, called on the defense of Andrew Jackson's statue and other monuments. The move from Campbell, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe, comes at a time when Black Lives Matter demonstrators have been demanding that authorities take down monuments honoring pro-slavery Confederate figures and the architects of Europe's colonies. 

Campbell made the statement during SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight, where he was asked about the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003, sponsored and introduced into US senate by him. The former senator said: "It’s really interesting. Sometimes it is said, ‘What goes around comes around,’ and I guess in this case that bill introduced years ago came around. I was disturbed, particularly because I’m a Korean War veteran, and some of the vandals defaced the Korean War Memorial. I had friends die in that war. It’s a very personal thing to me."

Amid increasing attacks on problematic statues in the country, President Donald Trump, this week, warned anti-racism demonstrators against tearing down or vandalizing public statues, stating that they will have to face at least 10 years in prison if they do so.

Protesters pull down a fence surrounding the statue of Andrew Jackson in an attempt to pull the statue down in Lafayette Square near the White House on June 22, 2020 in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

"Years ago, the Taliban were destroying artifacts in Afghanistan that had been there for hundreds and hundreds of years, and there was a huge national and international outrage,” Campell stated. “To me, this is a little bit of the same thing. We should not be destroying old artifacts, whether we agree with them or not," the former senator said referring to anti-racism protesters. "A lot of this is driven by, in my view, people who are basically anarchists. They want to change our whole national structure, and a little bit of white guilt thrown in there, too. There’s just a better way to do it if people don’t want those statutes to remain, because where does it end? Is there going to be a movement to take the name of Washington off of our United States capital because he was a slave owner?”

“They defaced the Lincoln Memorial, too," Campbell noted. “My gosh, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which helped the slaves become free people. When you think of how we’re raised, and what we believe about Columbus, and now we’re finding out that some of the stuff they told us about Columbus discovering America implies that there were not 20,000 years of people here before Columbus got here,” Campbell remarked.

“There are statues to Andrew Jackson. He drove the Trail of Tears — killing thousands of Cherokees and Choctaws and Chickasaws and Seminoles and so on — when they were driven to Oklahoma territory. Kit Carson is considered a hero in some respects too, but he drove Navajos at gunpoint 1,400 miles on foot to serve four years imprisonment in Bosque Redondo simply for being Navajos, and yet there are statues to Kit Carson, too. So, Native people have a very different perspective one who is a hero and who’s not," the senator added.

 “When I introduced that language, nobody thought in terms of the Southern states who were doing things to really to glorify some of their soldiers,” Campbell stated. “I think they have a right to do that [with] soldiers from the South. Robert E. Lee was an outstanding cadet at West Point at one time, and military historians think that he was one of the top two or three generals in the whole Civil War. He was just on the wrong side of that one, but that should not diminish his skill as a soldier.”

"I’m really a great advocate of Dr. Martin Luther King’s way of addressing things," he added. "We should have social change through a civil discourse, and not simply by ganging up on each other to see who’s got the most people in a fight. I am a Korean War veteran, and I’m a Cheyenne. I’m very proud of that. You probably know that the history of American Indians at the hands of the federal government and mobs — through different kinds of terrible, tragic killings — were just beyond belief.”

“Yet if you look at the records now, Native Americans have the highest percent of enlistment per capita of any ethnic group in the United States,” Campbell continued. “They’ve learned how to adapt and how to try to get ahead in life, and although things are still not very good for a lot of Native people, through their own efforts they’re making progress.”

The Trump administration has reportedly put hundreds of National Guardsmen on standby to protect monuments in Washington DC amid growing tensions and threats. The officials, however, will be unarmed and will serve as "uniformed deterrence". Pentagon spokesperson Lt Col Christian Mitchell, in a statement, said: "Since their activation, none of the National Guard members have been dispatched to actual monument locations to provide assistance to the NPP. They remain on standby at the DC Armory at this time. They will support US Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction."