Christopher Columbus murals covered with Native American tapestries at Notre Dame
Notre Dame University covered historical murals depicting the life of Christopher Columbus.
In their place, tapestries are now visible depicting wildlife scenes and Native American patterns.
Notre Dame covered 12 murals depicting the life of Christopher Columbus with Native American-themed tapestries. This comes after years of debate over the historic paintings.
South Bend, Indiana's Notre Dame University covered up a dozen murals depicting the life of the explorer Christopher Columbus, who is lauded as the discoverer of the Americas. Students who walk down the corridor of Notre Dame’s golden-domed main building will now notice tapestries depicting Native American and midwestern themes.
Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins announced in January 2019 that the murals wouldn’t be regularly displayed. Later, Jenkins announced that they would be covered with “removable” coverings featuring indigenous subjects, flora, and fauna of the region.
There is a form available on Notre Dame’s website through which university members can request the uncovering of the murals for “instructional purposes.” The form must be completed 14 days prior to the desired viewing date.
The murals were commissioned by Notre Dame’s first President and Founder, Rev. Edward Frederick Sorin, C.S.C. Sorin, who Notre Dame Magazine describes as its “unabashedly patriotic patriarch” commissioned Luigi Gregori, an artist from Columbus’ homeland of Italy, to paint the images in 1881. Originally, they were a source of pride for Notre Dame’s community and American Catholics.
In recent years they’ve come under fire from progressive and Native American organizations at Notre Dame. A November 2017 letter, signed by at least 300 students likened the murals to Confederate monuments. This came a month after a protest was staged against the murals by Native American students. The College Democrats supported the campaign, and in 2019 wrote a letter to the editor of The Observer praising Jenkins’ decision to cover them.
However, many students and conservative organizations on campus disagreed with the vocal opponents of the murals. The Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Notre Dame issued a statement calling the administration’s decision to cover the murals “cowardly.” YAF also called on the university to reverse its decision and publicly display the artwork. A petition circulated by the organization to save the murals received over 3,000 signatures and was supported by the Notre Dame College Republicans.
In February 2019, the conservative commentator and Daily Wire show host, Michael Knowles, came to the campus as a guest of YAF. Knowles called the decision to cover the murals “morally and pedagogically indefensible.”
Though academia has increasingly tilted toward a negative view of Columbus aligned with “woke” politics, some scholars still stand in defense of Columbus’ legacy. One is Dr. Carol Delaney, author of Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem and a retired Stanford professor.
Delaney told Campus Reform that she’s been aware of the situation around the murals for some time. She said: “I am appalled at what Notre Dame is doing.” Delaney suggested that “instead they [Columbus’ detractors] need to learn more about Columbus.. he is not the man they think he is...and also why not have two murals!”
Campus Reform reached out to Notre Dame but didn’t hear back in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Leo_Thuman