Published April 30, 2013
Two billboards in which images of Native Americans are used to make a gun rights argument are causing a stir with some Colorado residents who say the image is offensive and insensitive.
The billboards in this northern Colorado city show three men dressed in traditional Native American attire and the words "Turn in your arms. The government will take care of you."
Matt Wells, an account executive with Lamar Advertising in Denver, said Monday that a group of local residents purchased the space.
"They have asked to remain anonymous," he said.
He also refused to disclose the cost but said the billboards are only appearing in the Greeley area. Wells said he has not received any complaints so far.
"I think it's a little bit extreme, of course, but I think people are really worried about their gun rights and what liberties are going to be taken away," Wells told the Greeley Tribune.
Greeley resident Kerri Salazar, who is of Native American descent, said she was livid when she learned about it. She said she doesn't have a problem with the gun rights message, but she's offended the Native American people were singled out, apparently without their consent.
"I think we all get that (Second Amendment) message. What I don't understand is how an organization can post something like that and not think about the ripple effect that it's gonna have through the community," she said.
Irene Vernon, a Colorado State University professor and chairwoman of the ethnic studies department, said the message on the billboard is taking a narrow view of a much more complicated history of the Native American plight. She said it's not as if Native Americans just gave up their guns and wound up on reservations.
"It wasn't just about our guns," said Vernon, a Native American.
Greeley resident Maureen Brucker, who has worked with Native American organizations and who frequents the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as an honorary family member, said she thinks the billboards are making light of atrocities the federal government committed against Native Americans.
She said the billboard brings to her mind one of the most horrendous examples of that, the Wounded Knee Massacre on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1890. Historical accounts say the 7th Cavalry had detained a band of Native Americans and asked them to give up their weapons. Troops began firing after a shot rang out. Death toll estimates of Native American men, women and children range from 150 to 300.
Brucker said she thinks those who put up the billboards should come forward to discuss their viewpoints.
"I thought it was pretty cowardly that someone would put something like that up and spend the money for a billboard but didn't have the courage to put their name on it," she said.