I have been a Durango resident since 1976 and I am a former waitress at the Chief Diner. The debate over the Toh-Atin Gallery’s iconic “Chief” sign seems to ignore some key issues.
First: Effective change demands honest dialogue. That has not occurred. Of the petitioners who want the “Chief” removed – The Durango Herald editorial board, and most egregiously, Fort Lewis College President Tom Stritikus and FLC board Chairman Ernest House – none contacted the Clark family, owners of the gallery that owns the “Chief” to engage in a dialogue about the issue before launching into their campaign. None.
History is complex; so is historic symbolism like the “Chief.” Many families from all walks of life have fond and deeply-rooted memories of dining at the Chief Diner or seeing the “Chief” as an icon pointing the way to the Clark family’s support and care of residents and our institutions for five generations.
Second, perhaps most importantly: The “Chief” is a privately funded piece of art on private property. The First Amendment right to free expression trumps all.
If the community truly thinks the sign should be removed, then raise the money, buy it and dispose of it as you please. Quit whining about your offended sensibilities and do something about it.
Deborah V. UrodaDurango