After petitions circulated last week both in support and in opposition to the “Chief” sign in downtown Durango, the large Native American caricature outside the Toh-Atin Gallery was vandalized with spray paint over the weekend.
Durango Police Department Cmdr. Rita Warfield said video surveillance caught a suspect around 11:30 p.m. Friday vandalizing the Chief in the west 100 block of Ninth Street, across from the gallery, which owns the sign.
Warfield said the suspect painted the words “not your mascot” and a large fist. There was also miscellaneous graffiti, resulting in about $2,500 in damages to the sign.
It appeared Monday morning most of the graffiti had been cleaned.
The vandalism was reported to the Durango Police Department early Saturday morning. Investigators were able to obtain video surveillance from a nearby business, which caught a possible suspect.
Warfield said video images were unable to capture a shot of the suspect’s face.
“We don’t have the face, just clothing,” she said.
A call to Toh-Atin Gallery co-owner Antonia Clark was not returned Monday morning.
Early last week, a petition was started calling for the Chief sign to be taken down. Those who started the petition say the sign is degrading to Indigenous people, racist and reinforces stereotypes.
The petition surfaced amid a nationwide movement to take down statutes and other monuments some consider symbols of historical racism and oppression, re-energized after the death of George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minnesota.
Not long after, a counter-petition was circulated from those in support of the Chief, which has been part of Durango’s history since the 1950s.
Clark said in previous interviews she is open to have conversations about the Chief. But, she maintains those who oppose it are a small minority.
“We in no way ever want to offend anyone,” Clark said. “There are 175,000 Navajos, and we hear negative things from only five or six.”