SOUTH BEND -- Decrying stereotypes of native Americans and blacks, some students, employees and alumni of the University of Notre Dame are renewing calls for the removal of large murals in the Main Building that depict the life of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.
The 12 paintings by artist Luigi Gregori have been on the walls of the building’s corridors since 1884.
It’s time for the murals to go, according to an open letter to the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, that was published Tuesday in the Observer, the student newspaper. The open letter was signed by more than 340 students, employees and alumni.
The paintings offer a “highly problematic vision of Western triumphalism, Catholic militarism and an overly romantic notion of American expansion,” the letter states. It describes the paintings as Notre Dame’s own version of a Confederate monument.
For its part, the university has no plans to get rid of the paintings.
“The Columbus murals are of historic and artistic value, and the University has no plans to remove them,” university spokesman Dennis Brown said in a written statement. He noted pamphlets are available to visitors explaining the murals and placing them in historical context.
It’s wrong that Native American and black students heading to the admissions and other administrative offices must walk by portraits of Native Americans and African Americans depicted in stereotypical submissive poses before white European explorers, said Dominic Acri, a Notre Dame senior from Pennsylvania and president of the campus Native American Student Association. He’s a descendant of the Rosebud Sioux tribe of South Dakota.