Tampa’s Riverwalk during one of the times it is not hosting an alcohol-fueled frenzy.

Tampa, a representative of which called it “clutter,” moved in the dark of the night on Tuesday to rip out an 1,100 pound statue intended to honor the Native Americans of Florida.

The artwork was a bust of Ulele, the daughter of the Tocobaga chief Hirrihigua. She is credited with saving the life of a young Spaniard named Juan Ortiz who came to Florida with the expedition of Pinfilo de Narvaez in 1527. Read the full story here.

The gigantic bronze bust portrays Ulele and was placed by Richard Gonzmart, the owner of the Ulele Restaurant. It was a few yards away from the Tampa Riverwalk, but not far enough away to satisfy the city. According to Gonzmart, the removal was ordered by the city’s mayor, Bob Buckhorn. The mayor denies that, but one thing is clear: city crews arrived in the middle of the night and ripped out the artwork with a large crane.

Gonzmart, who sponsored the artwork, is a major contributor to Tampa’s business community and owns multiple restaurants in the city. He also donates thousands upon thousands of dollars of his own money to support local causes and help worthwhile organizations there.

Pinellas Point Temple Mound in nearby St. Petersburg is the traditional site where Ulele rescued Juan Ortiz. Photo by Lauren Pitone

Daniel Ruth, a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, blasted Mayor Buckhorn in a column published today, calling the move to tear out the statue a “petulant attack.” He also pointed out that Tampa has allowed a remarkable variety of privately funded art to remain on public property through the years, ranging from “exploding chickens to a giant slinky.” Read his column here.

The columnist further commented that in Tampa, some things never change.

Ruth is absolutely right in this case. The original Ulele and her people suffered enormously at the hands of “officials” who decided how they should exist, where they should exist and if they should exist. Now more “officials” are doing the same to a representation of the young Native American woman in the form of an artwork that honored her for a long ago act of mercy.

It appears that things have not much changed for Native Americans in Tampa, Florida.

Learn more about the story of Ulele and Juan Ortiz by visiting: Ulele and Juan Ortiz: A Pocahontas Story.