Christopher Columbus murals covered with Native American tapestries at Notre Dame

College Fix – by Ellie Gardy

The University of Notre Dame administration has now covered the school’s 12 murals depicting the life of Christopher Columbus, which generated protests and petitions from Native American groups on campus.

The 12 tapestries showing Native American symbols and wildlife native to Indiana and are now placed directly over the Columbus murals. The Native American symbols belong to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, who invited the religious congregation that founded Notre Dame to today’s campus.

The tapestries show turtles, rabbits, foxes, rats, bears, eagles and fish, as well as a variety of plant life. The Native American borders consist of both “natural and geometric motifs of the Pokagon Band,” according to the university.

In some places, the edges of the original Columbus murals can still be seen. They were commissioned in 1884 by the founder of Notre Dame, Rev. Edward Sorin, and painted by Vatican artist Luigi Gregori. The murals depict Columbus as both a Catholic and American hero, and were meant to inspire patriotism in the immigrant Catholic community that populated Notre Dame.

In 2017, more than 300 students, employees and alumni signed a letter imploring university President Father John Jenkins to remove the murals, calling them a “highly problematic vision of Western triumphalism, Catholic militarism and an overly romantic notion of American expansion.” Thirty-three of the signatories identified themselves as Native American.

“The Native persons are depicted as stereotypes, their destruction is gilded over and their slavery is celebrated,” the students wrote of the murals.

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