Notre Dame Will Cover Columbus Murals over Portrayal of Native Americans

The Associated Press
Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP

The University of Notre Dame announced this week that it will be covering up murals of Christopher Columbus because of their portrayal of Native Americans.

The University of Notre Dame announced this week that they will be covering up 134-year-old murals that depict Christopher Columbus. The announcement came in a letter from university president John Jenkins.

“We wish to preserve artistic works originally intended to celebrate immigrant Catholics who were marginalized at the time in society, but do so in a way that avoids unintentionally marginalizing others,” Jenkins said in the letter.

The decision was likely prompted by a student petition signed in 2017 that called for the murals to be removed from campus. The petition, which was signed by 340 students, argued that the murals were “highly problematic.” The petition goes on to compare the mural to Notre Dame’s version of a “Confederate monument.”

Native students have been urging the administration to deal with the murals since at least the early 1990s. The administration, time and time again, has delayed, obfuscated, printed pamphlets and denied any ability to effectively fix the concrete problems the murals represent. As such, while it is tragic that a letter like this is necessary in 2017, as long as the murals remain unchanged, we must continue to protest, write, plead and demand their removal. There are many different options available to the University moving forward, and more discussion is necessary, but status quo is not enough. The easily overlooked pamphlets are not enough. In this era of political divisiveness and a renewed rise of dangerous nationalism, it is time for Notre Dame to remove its own version of a Confederate monument. It is time for the murals to go.

The decision has received a mix response from the Notre Dame community. Some have argued that it is never productive to erase history, even when that history casts a negative shadow on American history. Others have defended the decision, arguing that the removal of the mural was long overdue.

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