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At Notre Dame, students lobby for removal of Columbus murals, call them ‘version of a Confederate monument’

‘Protest, write, plead and demand their removal’ 

Some students, employees and members of the Notre Dame community are calling for the removal of a series of paintings of Christopher Columbus that have adorned the walls of the university’s main building since 1884, calling the murals Notre Dame’s “own version of a Confederate monument.”

The 12 murals, hung in the same hallway as the admissions office, depict Christopher Columbus’ journey and arrival to the Americas in 1492. The founder of the university, Father Edward Sorin, commissioned Vatican painter Luigi Gregori to create murals that would inspire, uplift, educate, and be “didactically Catholic,” according to a university pamphlet.

But the murals have recently been the focus of intense campus debate, accused by students and others of including images of Native Americans and blacks in subservient roles, and portraying Native Americans in stereotypical clothing that is not historically accurate.

Senior Afro-Native student Armani Porter said that when he toured Notre Dame after being accepted his senior year of high school, he was initially confused by the murals. Porter, who is Eastern Band Cherokee, particularly noted “how strong the power differential is in every single one of these paintings.” Since that time, he said his confusion has turned to disgust.

“When I look at these photos I can see quite clearly where I would fit into the murals,” said Porter in a town-hall style discussion hosted by the Native American Student Association of Notre Dame on November 29.

Porter is one of many students who have asked that the murals, which he called symbols of “oppression and hatred,” be taken down.

More than 340 students, employees and alumni signed a November 28 letter to university President Rev. John Jenkins imploring him to remove the murals, which they believe greet visitors with a “highly problematic vision of Western triumphalism, Catholic militarism and an overly romantic notion of American expansion.”

“[To] any student, staff, faculty or guest who identifies with an historically oppressed group, the presence of the murals in 21st century America mocks every attempt to make campus more inclusive, more diverse and more culturally sensitive,” the letter states.

“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.”

Next to the murals in the main building lie university pamphlets that note the responsibilities viewers have while viewing the paintings.

“These images can be troubling, especially their portrayal of Native Americans. Such depictions conflict with the vision of the dignity of the human person championed by the Catholic Church,” states the pamphlet, which was written by the president’s and public relations’ offices in consultation with a faculty advisory committee.

“Yet, these murals also exist as cultural artifacts that speak to the past hopes of European Catholic immigrants who wanted to carve out a niche in an often hostile society. While these images speak to those hopes, they do so while failing to account for the suffering of Native Americans. We encourage you to consider what these paintings meant to 19th-century Americans of European origin and what they mean to us today.”

However, the open letter to Father Jenkins calls the pamphlets “easily overlooked.”

University spokesperson Dennis Brown told The Observer that while the university has no plans to remove the murals, they are working with the Native American Student Association to reduce concerns about them. Brown also told the Indianapolis Star that the university is “considering more ‘permanent or prominent signage’ to explain the murals’ context.”

Native American students at Notre Dame have been opposed to the murals in the main building at least since the early 1990s. The university created the pamphlets in 1995 in response to complaints from Native American students.

In the open letter to Father Jenkins, the hundreds of signees announced that they will not discontinue their fight.

“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.”

MORE: Pepperdine removes Christopher Columbus statue

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Lauren Fox is a junior at the University of Notre Dame. She is majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. On campus, Lauren sings in an a cappella women’s group, works for the intramural sports program, and volunteers at a local middle school Junior Great Books program. In the summer of 2017 she covered breaking news for The Dallas Morning News. Her favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut and George Saunders.

Add to the Discussion

  • Daisiemae

    I guess every piece of art that has ever been created must be destroyed because it does not reflect life in the 21st century.

    I guess that also means that every piece of art created in 2018 must destroyed 100 years from now because it will not reflect life in the 22nd century.

    Stupid narrow-minded Nazis! Where are the Monuments Men?

    • grendl

      “Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.”
      ― George Orwell, 1984

      • Daisiemae

        Only one problem, it’s not difficult to attain stupidity. Stupid people are a dime a dozen.

        But thanks for the reference to George Orwell. I remember reading that in 8th grade and thinking how far fetched it seemed. Little did I know I would be living it in 2018. Orwell just got the date wrong.

    • Nancy Hitchins

      Look what does pass for art in the 20th-21st century…

      • NoDonkey

        Stuff not worth destroying because it’s already garbage.

  • taxpayer22

    When you start wiping out your history; sanitizing your history to make you feel better? It’s a bad thing.

  • taxpayer22

    tear down the pyramids because ancient Egyptians practiced slavery?

    • Tatiana Covington

      The worst idea I’ve ever heard! It’s the best building ever put up.

      • Bless his heart

        Same difference. the Taliban blew up those huge statues of Buddha in Afghanistan built centuries ago before Islam extended slavery to the area.

        Tear down the Aztec Temples and raze old Mexico city because the Aztecs murdered many thousands yearly by sacrificing them and cutting their hearts out.

        No black monuments as Africans sold slaves for the relatively short lived Atlantic slave trade.

        Eject all Muslims from Europe and raze all mosques as Islam took more than 2,000,000 slaves in a few centuries from Europe around the Mediterranean Sea. And so on. Maybe raze Mecca for Islam’s slavery.
        And so on.

  • taxpayer22

    The left is just like the Muslim Taliban, they destroyed Buddhist monuments . Taliban Muslims – recently destroyed 2,000 year old Buddha statues..to try to erase history..

    • Portia Hardesty

      I’ll think real hard about it, but I don’t believe I ever destroyed a Buddhist monument! I do remember going several times to celebrate Buddhist New Year’s in Los Angeles. But i’m pretty sure I’d remember it is I had destroyed a Buddhist monument. I think that would be ISIS!

      • Juana

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      • grendl

        The operative phrase, “Muslim Taliban”, reading is fundamental.

  • DonHonda

    Apparently, “native americans” were not the first “indigenous” people here in North America. Evidence is mounting that they pushed out a previous population of European-centric origin:

    The Smithsonian Magazine:
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-very-first-americans-may-have-had-european-roots-5517714/?no-ist
    The Very First Americans May Have Had European Roots
    Some early Americans came not from Asia, it seems, but by way of Europe

    The Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/radical-theory-of-first-americans-places-stone-age-europeans-in-delmarva-20000-years-ago/2012/02/28/gIQA4mriiR_story.html
    Radical theory of first Americans places Stone Age Europeans in Delmarva 20,000 years ago

    The National Geographic:
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0903_030903_bajaskull.html
    Controversy erupted after skeletal remains were found in Kennewick, Washington, in 1996. This skeleton, estimated to be 9,000 years old, had a long cranium and narrow face—features typical of people from Europe, the Near East or India—rather than the wide cheekbones and rounder skull of an American Indian.

    http://sciencenordic.com/dna-links-native-americans-europeans
    Ancient DNA reveals that the ancestors of modern-day Native Americans had European roots. The discovery sheds new light on European prehistory and also solves old mysteries concerning the colonisation of America.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=europeans+were+the+first+americans&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb

    • Julesagain ✓ it’s me

      Exactly! I’ve been saying this for years. Not only did they migrate as prehistoric peoples, they obliterated each other all across this continent in bloody, unrelenting violence long before Europeans ever arrived. All of human history is one of nomadic migration and battles for territory, like any other creature. Suddenly this one slice of humanity is evil for doing so?

    • Reasonandbelieving

      Regardless, nomadic tribes don’t claim to own land, nor did they stick around to fight for it.
      The fact is most American Indians tribes joined WITH the Europeans to defeat the war-like savage tribes that included the Apache Nation and others.
      The moronic notion that European “stole” the land , or “genocided” the American Indians is something from Marxist Communists propaganda. not truth.
      The tribes were NOT genocided. The peoples intermarried with Europeans . Not genocided, ..embraced fully.

  • DonHonda

    http://www.pottsmerc.com/opinion/20170903/dave-neese-cleaning-up-our-historical-act

    DAVE NEESE: Cleaning up our historical act

    “We must seize this opportunity to indulge ourselves in smug moral righteousness, in “virtue-signaling,” as it has come to be named. “

  • Steve

    Sorry, but the scoreboard doesn’t lie. These murals only give the highlights of a game long won.

  • Julesagain ✓ it’s me

    What the hell is “Afro-Native”?
    And his first name is Armani? That is hilarious.
    Isn’t the ‘Senior’ label kind of exclusionist? That he should have some kind of extra authority by virtue of having been there longe–
    Oh wait. That’s the whole Native American platform. “We immigrated here before you did!”

    • Tatiana Covington

      That’s true, BTW, by some 25,000 years. Long enough since then for Polaris to become the Pole Star… again! (Axial precession)

    • T100C1970

      It also says he is “Eastern Band of the Cherokee”. It sounds like a male version of Rachel Dolezal + Fauxahontas Warren. Maybe its birth name was Suzie Smith.

  • ChezC3

    The Unthinking Left is a nihilist death cult that should be purged from existence.

  • I wonder if the day will come when members of the ND community will complain about the statue of Mary, the Mother of God, that is prominent atop one of the main buildings, and demand that it be removed to make some more “comfortable” with their atheist roots. Reality is gone. History was re-written. And now “inclusion” means exclusion. Go figure.

  • james

    Luke Skywalker did Nothing Wrong.

  • david smith

    “Native Americans”: STFU. First, you aren’t native. You came from Asia so you traveled here just like whites did. Also, you warred with your neighbors and took their land, slaves and possessions.
    The reality of your existence is that we kicked your azzes. You’re losers and have no right to bitch. We could have killed you all or took ALL THE LAND including the reservations you live on.

    Blacks: STFU. You self identify as “African-American”. Slavery has existed on the African continent for over 3000 years and still does. The economies of ENTIRE NATIONS were based on slavery and to some extent still are today. All that slavery is blacks trading blacks. What kind of black idiot would identify with that? Are you proud of that? How has that contributed to the world?
    Furthermore, you are the most violent and criminal demographic in America—by far. What does this mean besides the fact that you behave more like animals than anyone else? That you marginalize yourselves Dumb Azzes.

    • grendl

      “You see the one thing I’ve always maintained is that I’m an American Indian. I’m not a Native American. I’m not politically correct. Everyone who’s born in the Western Hemisphere is a Native American. We are all Native Americans. And if you notice, I put “American” before my ethnicity. I’m not a hyphenated African-American or Irish-American or Jewish-American or Mexican-American.”
      Russell Means, Yankton Dakota/Oglala Lakota.

  • <—Picture worth 1,000 words.

    My God. Notre Dame has lost its mind. Tell you what, why dont you advertise that Muslims owned 120,000,000 slaves. Of those 20,000,000 were blacks. Know how many black slaves America had total? 380,000. That is it. In fact, there are nations in Africa that today have more slaves than America had. Screw you Notre Dame and to those signing that petition —- you are free to leave this country. We dont want you. We dont need you. And, within a month, you will be begging to be back in oppressive America.

  • <—Picture worth 1,000 words.

    Also, to this so called Liberal Studies student and “journalist”, why not do a story of Muslims having slaves? Why not do a story on how Native Americans committed genocide on their own people? Why not do a story on the blood rituals of the indigenousness people in South America. Stop peddling your liberal propaganda bullshit. You are useful idiots and nothing more. While you are at school, why not actually study. Go look at what Lenin did. He used morons like you and then when in power, he turned around and killed idiots like you. You are but a tool. Nothing more and you are too damn stupid to realize how you are being played.

  • grendl

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984

  • AmRifleman

    Odd that no white person gets it what all these protests over Murals, statues, and what’s written in our History books is all about. It’s not about murals, Confederate statues, or white slave-owners being honored, and all the other excuses we get, it’s about cleansing all white history in the USA.
    What do whites think blacks and Hispanics mean when they demand that they don’t want to be taught “about dead white men”? What do whites think when blacks and Hispanics want to be taught bull$*** courses like Black or Hispanic Studies, instead of World or US History?
    These white people haters are basically doing what Fr. Martin Niemoller once said when he was asked why he didn’t speak out against the Nazi’s. These white haters first came for the easy targets, Confederate statues, then they demanded censorship of books; then they came out against white Slave owners; then they came for Murals of white men, and on, and on. Their agenda is to erase everything whites have accomplished, and replace it with their revisionist history.

  • Ella Hill Smythe

    Then don’t look at them….sort of like turning the channel when you don’t like a show. Geez, if these idiots become incensed over a few murals, how are they going to react when they graduate and find that the world outside of cloistered academia doesn’t really care what they think.

  • Ed Baker

    Only a shallow infantile depraved hate-filled and oppressive mind would interpret an image of gratitude for the benevolence of Christopher Columbus as hate-filled and oppressive. I’m taking book on how long it will take before Jenkins capitulates.

  • GROPENOTMOAN

    These Liberals and Communists are worse than ISIS,

  • Clint

    I hope that the facility and administrators at Norte Dame will have the Courage to stand up for American History against the Onslaught of the History Illiterates who want to Eliminate, Erase Censure or Destroy Our American Heritage.

  • Bless his heart

    The progressives and leftists better be careful. they are damning those who acted with good intentions.
    The left and progressives commit genocide across the world claiming good intentions.

    Maybe Wong vs USA (1898) US Supreme Court should be considered seriously. It only permits those born here with their parents present here having no legal issues to be considered subject to the jurisdiction of the USA and be considered citizens. Those having legal issues has never been before the Court. The default in international law is that they are the citizens of their parent’s nation.

    There is more that would not be what many protesting would want to hear or understand.
    If they persist, apply the law. then it is Bye Bye. They want and are waging war now.

  • Tatiana Covington

    Or they could just IGNORE the murals.

  • Will

    Taking a page from the Taliban.

  • Bill Scudder

    I don’t believe in wiping out history but it should be noted that Columbus massacered and hung hundreds of American Indians in the Dominican Republic. That should be in the History books also