VENTURA, Calif. -- The fate of a long-time historical statue will be determined Tuesday night. A City Council meeting is scheduled to take place to discuss the future of the Junipero Serra Statue.
It's a site that might become history. The Junipero Serra statue is on the verge of being removed.
“I understand the controversy and I appreciate it, but Father Serra is the founder of this mission and founder of the city,” said Father Tom Elewaut, Pastor at San Buenaventura Mission.
The iconic statue has been in front of Ventura City Hall since 1936, but now many are calling for it to be taken down.
"I think on one side you have people that say by taking the statue down you are trying to remove or erase history,” said Ventura mayor Matt LaVere. “Then on the other side, which I feel is really important, I think we truly have to listen to the voices of the Chumash and to really understand what that statue means to them.”
Junipero Serra is credited as the founder of the first nine missions in California, but he is also accused of destroying Native American culture. Now the Chumash tribe and many in the community want the statue removed. Some others have said they want to leave it be.
“What happened during the mission era and post mission era is a tragedy to the indigenous people of this land,” said Father Tom. “However, Father Serra has become the target. He died in 1784. Most of the atrocities happened long after his death.”
During a virtual meeting earlier this month, the Historical Preservation Committee determined the statue was not a landmark. Tuesday night's council meeting will determine if the statue stays or goes.
"I am a firm believer that we have to maintain our history whether it is good or bad and to continue learning from that history,” said LaVere. “But, to me, to simply move the statue to the mission possibly, that enables the statue to stay up and for us to still continue learning that history.”
“So if the statue is possibly relocated here at the mission we would be honored to house it, and to continue to honor St. Junipero Serra,” said Father Tom.
The statue is currently fenced off to prevent it from being torn down or vandalized.
“We do not want that happening here,” said LaVere. “We really want to this to be a peaceful decision.”