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Banner Drop Against Columbus Murals at University of Notre Dame

By the collective - Rising Tide Michiana, December 8, 2017

“South Bend, Indiana”—Studying for their final exams, University of Notre Dame students in the library on Friday morning looked up and saw a banner unfurled from the second-floor balcony. The banner proclaimed,

This is Potawatomi land! F*ck the KKKolumbus murals!

The message comes as students have been organizing against murals displayed by the entrance of the university’s main administrative building. According to a pamphlet issued by Notre Dame, the nineteenth-century murals “create a heroic impression” of Christopher Columbus, despite the conqueror’s record of mass enslavement and murder. Moreover the paintings portray indigenous people in ways that Native American students say are stereotypical and insulting.

Students are collecting signatures for a petition titled “Dear Father Jenkins, The Murals Must Go.” Signed by more than 600 people, the petition argues, “The Native persons are depicted as stereotypes, their destruction is gilded over, and their slavery is celebrated. The murals commemorate and laud the beginning of the centuries-long systematic removal of Native American persons and culture from the United States.”

The following statement was offered by Julie Dye, a Pokagon Band Potawatomi Elder and descendant of Leopold Pokagon and Simon Pokagon:

These murals are symbols of oppression that do not represent local Native Americans—but yet Notre Dame calls the location ‘A Potawatomi Place.’ They contribute to the erasure of Native culture by feeding myths of history and perpetuating stereotypes.

The original intent does not negate the detrimental impact on the audience—especially the races depicted. Images matter. Teach the truth. Honor Native people by relocating the murals to a museum or gallery.

The group behind the banner drop, Rising Tide Michiana, takes direct action confronting the root causes of climate change. They said, “White supremacy must be dismantled as part of the fight to preserve life on Earth. We will take further actions in support of indigenous people’s demands to address these racist murals.” They may be contacted at

Rising Tide Michiana has received statements of support from the IWW GDC Local 26, the Graduate Workers Collective of Notre Dame, and Fossil Free ND.

The event received press coverage from several media outlets:

Statement of support from IWW GDC Local 26

We have received a statement of support for our banner drop from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) General Defense Committee (GDC) Local 26:

Before Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean, hundreds of indigenous cultures and societies flourished throughout the Americas. Made up of more than 100 million individuals, the native populations of the western hemisphere were not here to be ‘discovered’–they were here to live their lives.

The historical evidence of the ridiculously negative impact of Columbus and his successors in colonizing these lands can only bear witness to the rape and pillage of entire societies and the extermination of tens of millions of people. We cannot know how those people felt to see their way of life and their very existence destroyed in the name of gold and empire.

To continue to glorify Columbus’ brutality with a mural in an institution of both higher learning AND supposedly compassionate religion is a slap in the face to the memories of the indigenous peoples of not only THIS area, but to all indigenous peoples who have suffered at the hands of colonial oppressors.

Recognizing this, we stand in solidarity with any and all who oppose the glorification of Christopher Columbus and the colonial destruction of indigenous society. It is time to bring an end to this whitewashing of history and recognize the disastrous results of imperial colonialism. More importantly, it is time to recognize the great contributions and sacrifices that indigenous peoples have made to our society.

Thank you, GDC Local 26!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.