Just months before a set of larger-than-life murals honoring local Native Americans was scheduled to be memorialized on a new school’s campus, a graffiti vandal defaced the artwork in an act described by the murals’ creator as “stupid” and an “act of terrorism.”
The vandal who defaced larger-than-life murals of Native Americans in North Seattle over the weekend destroyed in one day what took the artist 12 years to create, the artist said.
“This is not an ordinary act of graffiti,” said Andrew Morrison. “It is an act of hatred and viciousness that has created heartbreak and confusion in a place where people are supposed to feel safe.”
Morrison said he learned of the vandalism to what has been called “The Great Walls of Heritage” Sunday night and drove up to see the damage for himself on Monday.
The Auburn resident, who is an art curator at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Seattle’s Discovery Park, said it was the first time the murals have been defaced.
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The eight murals — which are visible from blocks away — include 25-foot-tall black, white and gray portraits of Chief Seattle, Sitting Bull and other historic figures from local Native American communities.
The portraits, which are painted on the outside walls of Seattle Public Schools’ Wilson-Pacific School campus — once home to the Indian Heritage Middle College — are among just a few notable examples of local public art honoring Native Americans.
The vandal, Morrison said, probably had to use a ladder and buckets of paint to cause such extensive damage. The person painted over the towering mural the letters DAPKILO, which Morrison said represent the vandal’s affiliation and tagger name.
DAP, he said, stands for Down Around Pike and is the name of a crew of graffiti artists. KILO, he said, is the name of one of the group’s members.
“We know who did it,” Morrison said in a telephone interview Monday. “He was stupid enough to write his own name.”
Morrison said the crime is an “act of terrorism” against him, his family, his people and his tribe and that it was “race-related, hate-related and idiot-related — all three.”
However, Seattle Police Department spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said that while the vandalism is “absolutely reprehensible, there isn’t any evidence to suggest this is a hate crime.”
He said the matter is being investigated by the department’s graffiti detective.
The vandalism occurred just months before work on the preservation of the artwork was about to start.
Two years ago, it appeared the murals might be destroyed during demolition of the old school campus to make way for a new one with two schools. The school district originally proposed memorializing the portraits by photographing them and displaying the images in the new schools, but Morrison balked.
“The 25-foot Chief Seattle is the largest commemoration of the city’s namesake in the country,” Morrison said. “Why would they want to destroy it?”
The plan to destroy the murals was met with opposition from people here and across the country who pleaded with school-district officials to save Morrison’s work.
The district ultimately agreed to save the concrete on which the murals are painted and incorporate them into the new campus.
Morrison said he spent Monday at the site, reassuring people that the paintings would somehow be restored and that everything would be OK.
“I’m going to do my best to fix it. … I’m going to do my best to stand tall, help bring this person to justice and restore peace and resolution,” he said.