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Should the post office remove a mural that a state agency says portrays Native Americans offensively?

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There is an ongoing debate over a painting inside the U.S. Post Office in Durham that depicts a scene involving Native Americans that some people deem offensive.

A mural has one panel - called “Cruel Adversity” - that depicts a Native American with a lit torch crouching in view of an early settler’s log home. The mural, which has a series of Colonial scenes in various panels, was commissioned by the Women’s Club of Durham for the Post Office to recognize its opening in 1959.

The New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs (NHCNAA) has demanded the mural be removed because it believes the mural unfavorably depicts Native Americans. The U.S. Postal Service has refused, citing its policy not to remove or cover artwork in its branches. For more information, click here

The Durham town administrator, Todd Selig, and the Durham town council tried to mitigate the controversy by suggesting that interpretive text be added to the mural to put the mural in perspective, given the difference in cultural attitudes almost 60 years ago.

While the postal service was open to including interpretive text, the NHCNAA insists on its removal.

Those who want the mural removed argue it is racist and that it only perpetuates certain myths about the relationship between native peoples and settlers. They say the only panel referencing native people - the panel with the torch - is a derogatory one.

Those who want to keep the mural say it is a reflection of attitudes at the time of its creation and that those attitudes can be put into proper perspective with interpretive text. To remove the mural, they say, would be like trying to erase parts of history.

Should the post office in Durham remove a mural that some believe is an offensive portrayal of Native Americans?  Share your opinion in the comments below.


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It should be removed. It is offensive.

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