For freshman Shyh Saenz, there is too much unsaid about the statue with no name.
When Saenz discovered a statue depicting a Native American man on the west side of the Schoenberg Center with no plaque recognizing who or what the statue is, she decided this would be her first call to action. She brought the issue of the underrepresented statue to her First Year Seminar (FYS), intergroup dialogue, in which she and three other freshmen, Bridgette McCue, Jessica Clay and Karina Ferrer, underwent a project to bring justice to the statue.
“We wanted to bring actual awareness to the statue that doesn’t have a name,” Saenz said.
While her search for answers began in the classroom, the project’s meaning ran much deeper for Saenz, who is of Native American heritage.
“The statue is depicted with snared wire. There is no plaque for it, it is not maintained and it’s not how a Native American should be depicted,” Saenz said. “It’s upsetting as a Native American to see that’s how I’m being viewed.”
The Schoenberg Center was established by Fr. Wilfred Schoenberg in 1968. The building was designed to mimic a teepee and was created as the Museum of Native American Art and Culture (MONAC). In the early 1990s, most artifacts inside the building were turned over to Spokane’s Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, and the building now houses Gonzaga’s Student Program Offices.
However, on the inside of the building there is a plaque that reads, “Pacific Northwest Indian Center,” followed by Schoenberg’s name.
Raymond Reyes, who serves as GU’s associate academic vice president and chief diversity officer, has lived in Spokane for 45 years and also found the unnamed statue to be a mystery.
What Reyes remembered is there used to be four statues outside the Schoenberg Center — one statue, two totems on the east side and the unnamed statue that still remains on the west side.
“Cheney Cowles Museum built a museum in Browne’s Addition, the Museum of Arts and Culture, and the collection was transferred from the Schoenberg Center to the Cowles Museum,” Reyes said.
Ken Sammons, who has worked in University Services and Plant and Construction Services as GU’s longest-serving employee, shared briefly the history of the statue.
The statue is titled Salish Warrior and was sculpted by an American artist, Ken Lonn, in 1972-73.
“When the MONAC collection was transferred to the Cheney Cowles Museum, they declined to take the Salish Warrior, as it was deemed to be of a coastal Indian and not a plains Indian, and therefore not appropriate for their collection,” Sammons said.
“I think I decided to bring awareness because we are still here, the Native American population. It is Native American heritage that should be highlighted,” Saenz said. “A lot of people who are Native American never had a voice for themselves.”
Both Reyes and Saenz claimed the Native American communities on and around GU’s campus are important to recognize.
“There are 10 Indian reservations within a 200-mile radius of Spokane,” Reyes said.
Saenz’s search for recognition became more important than the statue itself. In her search, Saenz was also looking for Native American community.
To Saenz, the statue’s lack of recognition is only a symbol of a greater absence.
When Tim Wise, a prominent anti-racist writer and educator, came to campus, GU hosted a Native American speaker the same day, Paulette Jordan, in Jepson Center, at the same time.
“It was unfair, I had to go to Tim Wise for my communications class, so that is another example of not knowing there’s a Native American here,” Saenz said.
However, while seeking research for her FYS project, Saenz also began her search for an indigenous community.
“When I took initiative to go to the indigenous studies house, they connected me with UMEC [Unity, Multicultural Education Center], who told me they just started a Native American club,” Saenz said.
Saenz is encouraging of the club, hopes to connect with it and see the group of students grow.
“I’ve always been trying to bring awareness to the Native American community and be an activist for them,” she said.
“Remembrance is the main thing. A plaque would be nice, but at least clean up the statue, and represent this community in a positive way,” Saenz said.