Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ruled out bowing to activist pressure to tear down historical monuments at the federal parks and lands he oversees in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News Deputy Political Editor Amanda House, Sunday.
Immediately after disembarking from a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission patrol boat aboard which he assessed damage and clean-up efforts from last month’s Hurricane Irma, Secretary Zinke sat down with House for a live one-on-one interview.
House asked Zinke to weigh in on the current state of the left’s campaign against American historical monuments, particularly as that campaign, once largely confined to Confederate memorials, expands to calls to remove monuments to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and even Christopher Columbus.
“No monuments are going to be removed from federal land,” Zinke assured viewers, reiterating the commitment he made in July when, long before the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, outside of which a woman was killed by an apparent white nationalist, left-wing activists were already stepping up their calls to remove monuments to Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders.
“Where do you start and where do you stop?” Zinke asked rhetorically, noting some decidedly non-Confederates monuments that have been subject to leftist criticism. “If you’re a native Indian, I can tell you, you’re not very happy about the history of General Sherman or perhaps President Grant.”
Most famous for their pivotal roles in the Union’s victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War, General William T. Sherman and General – later President – Ulysses S. Grant are the subject of dozens of prominent monuments throughout the United States.
Less celebrated, however, are both men’s intimate involvement in formulating and executing federal policy towards American Indians, under which those native peoples suffered mightily. Sherman, for example, wrote his brother, Sen. John Sherman (R-OH), in 1868, “The more we can kill this year, the less will have to be killed the next war, for the more I see of these Indians the more convinced I am that they all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers.”
“I think we should never hide from our history or erase our history. I think we should embrace the history and understand the faults and learn from it. But when you try to erase history, what happens is you also erase how it happened and why it happened and the ability to learn from it,” Zinke told house.
As House noted in her question for Zinke, Columbus is a particular topic of concern given Monday’s national Columbus Day holiday, or, as more and more left-leaning jurisdictions now prefer, “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
Several monuments to the discoverer of the New World have been destroyed or defaced by left-wing vandals in recent months. In response, the National Christopher Columbus Association launched a website last week defend his legacy, which is particularly central to the identity of many Italian-Americans. The same group is planning to hold a ceremony Monday honoring Columbus at one of the nation’s largest Columbus monuments outside Washington, DC’s Union Station.
“[T]here’s periods of our time that I think it’s important to learn and learn a valuable lesson as Americans: why we are what we are, how did we get here, and how to make sure that we create a better future,” Zinke finished on the issue, “and that is learning from the past, adapting, and making a brighter future for everybody.”
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