MEDORA, N.D. — The statue of Theodore Roosevelt astride a horse and flanked by an American Indian and African American on foot will be removed from its pedestal in front of New York’s American Museum of Natural History.
The statue had drawn controversy in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis — a death that sparked demonstrations around the country and drew attention to statues and other symbols of colonialism or racism.
The Roosevelt statue in front of the American Museum of Natural History has drawn controversy in recent years as a symbol of colonialism, since the Roosevelt figure on horseback is higher than the figures flanking him.
Officials now are discussing what to do with the statue and aim to move it to a cultural institution dedicated to the life and legacy of the former president, according to a report in The New York Times.
That decision was made recently in a unanimous decision by the New York City Public Design Commission.
Could that mean it could be displayed at the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, which could be completed as early as 2025?
A spokesman for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation isn’t saying much.
“The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will be the People’s Library; our job is not only to look to the past but also look to the future,” said Ed O’Keefe, chief executive officer of the foundation.
“Theodore Roosevelt’s greatest legacy is not a statue - commissioned and dedicated long after his death - it is the national parks, our sacred and shared lands,” he added. “TR had the foresight to conserve, and it is in the shadow of that vision - not a monument - that we stand today.”
Medora serves as the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and the former president spent time in the Little Missouri Badlands hunting and ranching in the 1880s. He famously credited North Dakota for molding him into the man who became the nation's 26th president.
It isn’t known whether other cultural institutions dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy, such as the Theodore Roosevelt Institute at Long Island University might be interested in hosting the statue.
The statue, created in 1939 by sculptor James Earl Fraser, depicts Roosevelt both as a hunter and an explorer. The figures of the American Indian, wearing a traditional headdress, and African American were intended to portray guides, according to the Equestrian Statues website.
The Roosevelt statue stands before the front steps of the American Museum of Natural History, which Roosevelt’s father helped found.