Those who want to keep the “Chief” sign up in downtown Durango have started a petition of their own to save the large caricature of a Native American man, receiving more than 1,500 signatures in just one day.
Earlier this week, it was reported a petition was circulating to take down the Chief sign at Toh-Atin Gallery from some people who say the caricature is degrading and offensive, reinforcing stereotypes about indigenous people.
That petition on Change.org had more than 2,300 signatures as of 11:30 a.m. Friday.
In the days since, however, a counter-petition to show support for the sign, which has been part of Durango’s history since the 1950s, has cropped up, created by Durango resident Keartsy Wegher, also on Change.org.
“Durango has embraced its Native heritage for a long time and this statue does not represent a racist way of living,” she wrote on the petition. “We are a diverse town with Spanish, Mexican and Native American influences ... we need to APPRECIATE this, not ERASE IT.”
The Chief, located on west Ninth Street across from Toh-Atin Gallery, which owns the sign, once stood outside the old Chief Diner at Main Avenue and 21st Street.
After the Chief Diner closed in the early 1980s, the Chief sign was eventually moved to the location where it now stands in the west 100 block of Ninth Street. Over the years, it has generated controversy from those who say it is offensive.
Antonia Clark, co-owner of Toh-Atin Gallery, said she is open to have conversations about the Chief. But, she maintains those who oppose it are a small minority.
“We in no way ever want to offend anyone,” Clark said earlier this week. “There are 175,000 Navajos, and we hear negative things from only five or six.”