Following complaints, College to remove Baker Tower weather vane

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 6/15/20 1:29pm

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by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Updated June 15, 2020 at 2 p.m.

College President Phil Hanlon announced today that Dartmouth will remove and replace Baker Tower’s weather vane, which currently bears an image of a Native American.

The 600-pound weather vane, first installed as a result of a contest held during the construction of the tower in 1928, bears an image similar to that on the former Dartmouth crest, which was replaced last year. The vane portrays a Native American wearing feathers, smoking a pipe and sitting on the ground in front of Dartmouth's founder Eleazar Wheelock. A round shape — which historical records say is likely a barrel of rum — sits behind Wheelock.

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence said the College would remove the vane “as soon as possible.”

Native Americans at Dartmouth, a student organization that supports Native and Indigenous students at the College, wrote in a statement that the image on the weather vane promotes an idea that white systems of education are “valued above” those of the Native American community. NAD’s statement noted that the vane “panders to an invented and false idea of Native people” not based on any specific person or tribal group.

"It is clear that the images portrayed on the weather vane do not reflect Dartmouth's values," Hanlon said in a statement from the College.

Hanlon wrote that the decision to remove the weather vane, which stands seven feet tall and nine feet wide, came following students’ and community members’ concerns regarding the image. A petition created by Hanover resident David Vincelette calling for the removal of the weather vane has nearly 600 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

The College’s statement this afternoon said that vice president for communications Justin Anderson will assemble a working group to identify a new vane design.

"Baker Tower, which sits on top of the library, in the center of campus, is a powerful symbol of our commitment to learning and academic excellence," Hanlon said, adding that the crowning symbol should reflect the College’s values.

Additionally, the College noted that the Guarini School for Graduate and Advanced Studies’ shield, which features Baker Tower, will be updated to reflect the iconography of the new weather vane.

Dartmouth was established by Wheelock in 1769 as a school for the purpose of the “education and instruction of youth of the Indian tribes,” according to its charter. For much of its early history, however, very few Native students attended or graduated from the College

NAD’s letter noted that the weather vane “flaunts a racist depiction in the face of all the meaningful and beautiful progress that has been made,” adding that its removal will be a “long overdue” change. 

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