DENVER – A pair of billboards that seem to compare the concerns of the modern gun rights movement to the plight of Native Americans more than a century ago are, perhaps unsurprisingly, sparking discussion in Greeley.
The ads show an old (or at least old-looking) photograph of three men in traditional Native American garb along with the legend “Turn in your arms. The government will take care of you.”
The message would seem to recall incidents such as the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, in which U.S. Cavalry troops disarmed a large group of Lakota before slaughtering them.
The billboards belong to Lamar Advertising of Denver. The ads’ buyers have asked to remain anonymous, account executive Matt Wells told the Greeley Tribune. He would only identify them as “a group of local residents.”
“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,” he said.
Irene Vernon, a Colorado State University professor and chairwoman of the ethnic studies department, told the newspaper the billboards’ message takes a narrow view of a much more complicated history. It’s not as if Native Americans just gave up their guns and immediately found themselves on reservations, she said.
“It wasn’t just about our guns,” said Vernon, a Native American.
Greeley resident Maureen Brucker, who has worked with Native American organizations and is considered an honorary family member at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, didn’t mince words.
“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 told the paper.