New York Is Reviewing State Capitol Artworks Deemed ‘Offensive’ to Native Americans

N.Y. Governor Kathy Hochul has ordered a “comprehensive review” of the art at the Capitol with Indigenous representatives.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has quietly ordered the review of art at the State Capitol that depicts Native Americans. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has quietly ordered the review of art at the State Capitol that depicts Native Americans, after she was reportedly shocked by a painting of Pocahontas that hung at the Executive Mansion in Albany.

The news was first reported by The New York Times, which found the proposed action buried in the 2024 State of the State book, a lengthy document highlighting policy measures sought by the governor’s office. “All New Yorkers should feel welcome and respected when visiting the State Capitol. Unfortunately, offensive imagery and distasteful representations of populations in the art which adorns the Capitol can alienate visitors,” read the blurb in the book.

Indigenous peoples are often depicted in artworks “in a manner that reflects harmful racial stereotypes” and glorifies violence against them, Hochul’s office wrote, adding: “Such depictions do not reflect the values of New York State.”

The “comprehensive review” Hochul ordered is expected to occur over the course of the year and she has invited participation from representatives from each of the nine Indigenous Nations in the state.

As noted by the Times, the Empire State, like many other locations across the country, has long dealt with calls and protests to take down or change monuments, logos, slogans, or other general offenses to Native Americans. In fact, as far back as 1939, lawmakers determined that a statue depicting a settler and Indian was so offensive it was ground to dust.

Still, concerning depictions of Native American persist at government buildings, such as a mural in the governor’s executive office in the State Capitol. The artwork depicts French explorer Samuel Champlain embroiled in a fight with a Native man. Champlain killed two Iroquois chiefs in 1609, setting of a war between the confederacy of tribes and French colonizers.

On top of that, statues of Christopher Columbus and U.S. Army Gen. Philip Sheridan, who led campaigns of barbarity against Indigenous peoples, remain standing on Capitol grounds.

Ultimately, Hochul would decide what to do with any art deemed offensive. A spokesperson for her office told the Times that possibilities could include contextualizing placards.

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