Our country has witnessed a wave of protests in response to the brutal treatment of African Americans and the injustice they experience on a daily basis. The issues of discrimination also pertain to the Indigineous community. Americans are beginning to recognize the injustice and colonialism the Indigeneous people sustained throughout our history. Faith Linking In Action supports addressing issues of discrimation and injustice afflicting any part of our society, particularly the original owners of the land.
On the waterfront in Bangor, a monument park exists honoring the Portugese explorer and map-maker, Estevan Gomez. The park has a cement cross monument with a plaque honoring Gomez for his 1525 exploration of this area while looking for a northwestern passage for Spain. It acknowledges Gomez as the first European to set foot on the banks of the Penobscot River. This monument was gifted to the city of Bangor in 1999 by a group of Portugese Americans from New Bedford, Massachusetts.
The monument symbolizes a bright part of our history, the first European exploration of Maine and placing the Penobscot River on the map. However, what is not stated on or near the monument is Gomez’s history of kidnapping and transporting Indigenous people back to Europe to be sold as slaves. Fighting racism and discrimination in our community should be addressed in all its forms, especially when it is related to the Indigenous community, who endured the destruction of their cultures and abolishment of their sovereignty. In that line, keeping the monument to Gomez, who attempted to sell Indigenous people into slavery, perpetuates the emotional and traumatic experiences of Indigenous people.
It is unknown how much research the city of Bangor did into Gomez’s history prior to accepting the monument from the New Bedford group. It is also unknown whether the city polled all of the stakeholders after completing their research before accepting the monument.
Even though some individuals disagree with the removal of the monument since it represents history and should stay, Faith Linking In Action views this monument as a symbol honoring someone who caused humiliation and insult to Indigenous people and does not reflect our values. Removing the monument will give a strong message of support to the Indigenous community, hopefully building trust with them and help in the healing process. In the future, more research needs to be completed, involving all stakeholders, about the background of the persons being honored by monuments placed in our city and parks.
Peg Olson and Dina Yacoubagha are co-chairs Faith Linking In Action.