In Minnesota, Indigenous people danced and sang as a Columbus statue finally fell
Following the death of George Floyd, the entire country has embarked on a civil rights movement of racial reckoning — and the road to justice for Black people and people of color nationwide also includes removing racist symbols of American history. Statues of Confederate generals and other racist historical figures have been taken down in recent years, and even more this week — including a few of Christopher Columbus.
It’s no secret that Columbus is a controversial figure in U.S. history, mostly because the colonization that brought him to America was full of violence and murder against Indigenous people. In recent years, many cities and states have replaced Columbus Day in October with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” to recognize and validate the centuries of pain Columbus and other European colonizers inflicted on American Indians.
Now, some demonstrators have been targeting Columbus statues to show solidarity to Indigenous people by removing them. At the Minnesota state capitol yesterday, one such statue was brought down.
Members of the American Indian Movement are preparing to tear down the statue of Christopher Columbus at the Minnesota State capitol pic.twitter.com/8vLdELlxqG
— Max Nesterak (@maxnesterak) June 10, 2020
“This has been an ongoing conversation that we’ve been having for years with people who occupy this building (the capitol),” Mike Forcia with AIM of Twin Cities, a Native American advocacy group that organized the rally held to remove the statue, told KMSP. “It’s always ‘you got to wait; there’s a process you got to go through.”
Members of AIM sing the AIM song over the fallen Columbus statue in St Paul pic.twitter.com/0wrvvw0ey6— Max Nesterak (@maxnesterak) June 10, 2020
On Tuesday, about 1,000 people gathered in Richmond, Virginia to protest a Columbus monument.
How dare they pull Columbus out of the bottom of the lake he discovered
— Richmond Police (@BeQueerDoCrime) June 10, 2020
While the demonstration was peaceful, protestors did end up vandalizing the statue before tearing it down and tossing it into a lake.
In Boston this week, a monument of Columbus was actually beheaded before being removed altogether.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 11, 2020
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told the news outlet the statue will be subject to discussions about its “historic meaning.” Officials will talk about whether the statue should be put back up.
Many are calling for the removal of the 14 ft. statue of Columbus that stands just outside Central Park. Melissa Iakowi:he’ne’ Oakes, the executive director of the nonprofit American Indian Community House, tells ABC News that now is the time remove the 128-year-old statue, because New York City doesn’t need a monument to a figure who had a history of destroying and enslaving Indigenous people.
“I think with everything that is going on now … I don’t see why (the city) would have an argument against keeping the Christopher Columbus statue,” she says.
Saul Cornell, a chair in the American History department at Fordham University, tells ABC that statues of historical figures are problematic for many reasons. Mostly because classical statues are typically designed to “glorify” a figure, regardless of their complex history.
“We don’t have a good public record of dealing with our history thoughtfully and engagingly,” Cornell said. “A statue is a very specific form of the past.”