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NC dealership to remove giant Native American 'Chief Pontiac' statue after 'ugly' incident

Google Maps screenshot.
Google Maps screenshot.

When Sabrina Arch arrived at the Harry's on the Hill dealership, she said she should have known how she would be treated.

Standing on the edge of a cliff in front of the Asheville dealership is a 23-foot-tall fiberglass statue of a Native American. He's been there for half a century.

Now, it's time to say goodbye to Chief Pontiac.

Harry's on the Hill announced that the statue would be removed on its Facebook page on June 1.

"In late May, something happened at Harry's on the Hill that had never happened before, and we are committed to ensuring never happens again," the post began.

"As we drove up to the dealership, I noticed a big towering statue of an Indian out front. Seeing the figure should have been my first clue of what I was about to endure," Arch wrote in a commentary piece for the Cherokee One Feather newspaper. "Discrimination and hate are out there and going to Harry’s on the Hill; I got to experience it first-hand. At first, it made me angry. Then, I was disheartened and remorseful that this still happens."

After leaving the dealership, Arch, who is a Native American woman, received "an ugly, insulting and inappropriate text message" from the salesman she had interacted with, the business wrote.

The dealership said the unnamed salesman likely meant to send the message to a coworker, but "that makes absolutely no difference to us. When we learned about the message, that sales person's employment was terminated immediately."

The dealership did not provide any more details about the text message, but Arch did.

She said she tried to negotiate with the salesman at the dealership, but he quoted her a price for a vehicle that her bank told her "was way too high."

After purchasing a vehicle at a dealership about two hours away, Arch wrote that she sent a photo of it to the Harry's on the Hill salesman.

Arch said the salesman replied with a text message that wasn't meant for her: "look what this b----- sent me” and “Cherokee lady on Yukon."

It is because of that incident the Chief Pontiac statue that has stood at the dealership since it moved to its 819 Patton Avenue location in 1967 will be removed. The statue shows a bare-chested Chief Pontiac with his right hand held up and a two-foot tall feather on his head.

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Facebook screenshot.

"We now consider the statue a relic from a different era that should be moved to a place of honor befitting the Chief's legacy," the dealership wrote.

Chief Pontiac was an Odawa war chief known for his role in the war named for him. From 1763 to 1766, Chief Pontiac led Native Americans in an effort against British military forces occupying the Great Lakes region.

The dealership said it had contacted Chief Pontiac's sculptor in Arizona, who will take the statue home to his personal collection, adding that the statue will be moved "in the near future."

"We at Harry's on the Hill were shocked and extremely upset when we heard about this incident. Behavior like that is unacceptable, inconsistent with our values and will not be tolerated," the dealership wrote on Facebook. "For nearly a century, we have prided ourselves on providing the highest-quality service with the utmost respect and integrity for all of our customers. We have apologized to Ms. Arch and we are committed to making certain that nothing like this ever happens again at our company. We promise that everyone who visits Harry's on the Hill will be treated with respect and dignity. On that, there is no compromise."

Arch said the salesman did not apologize. In her commentary, she said Chief Pontiac "needs to be taken down."

"This is hate! We deserve better!" Arch wrote. "No one should have to go through this. As a Tribe, we can unify and stand up to others trying to take advantage of us!"

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