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Activists hang strongly-worded banner against Notre Dame murals

NOTRE DAME, Ind. --- A local group rolled out a banner Friday morning with a message against on-campus murals that the group said negatively portray Native Americans.

Rising Tide Michiana unrolled, in front of a library full of Notre Dame students studying for finals, a banner with the following message: “This is Potawatomi land! F*** the KKKolumbus murals!”

“They are expressing their outrage and it is an outrage,” said Julie Dye, a Pokagon Band Potawatomi Elder, who said she has deep ties to the Notre Dame land.

The group said they decided to take action after talking with the indigenous members of the local community. And said this demonstration was meant to highlight the urgency of the issue.

“They were not asking, ‘Should the murals be addressed,’” a spokesperson said. “They were asking, ‘When will the murals finally be addressed?’”

Dye said she might have used the language the group used, but said she understands why the group did it. The group is protesting murals portraying Christopher Columbus surrounded by a group of Native Americans. Many have called the murals controversial, and say how they misrepresent the Potawatomi tribe, since 1995.

“The university should not be celebrating an enslaver and murderer,” the spokesperson said. “There's no way you can have a healthy society if you celebrate a genocide.”

Dye and the group agree the murals belong in a museum where students and the community can study colonialism instead of perpetuating it.

“It’s time that Notre Dame recognizes that this is misinformation, cultural appropriation,” Dye said.

The group said they decided to unveil the banner in the Hesburgh Library because it’s a location where the banner would be “impossible to ignore.”

Benjamin Balthaser, a U.S. Multi-Ethnic Literature professor at Indiana University at South Bend, said he thinks the group’s actions are courageous.

“The image of Christopher Columbus has the same resonance for a Native American I would think that Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, might have for an African American,” Balthaser said. “Or even I would say as a Jewish American an image of Hitler.”

The University sent the following statement:

“As we have previously stated, the Columbus murals are of historic and artistic value, and the University has no plans to remove them.”                    

Dye said the University should talk with students who are Native American to come up with a solution. However, she said the murals are a system of oppression that needs to be dismantled.

Notre Dame’s Native American Student Association sent the following statement, regarding today’s demonstration:

“NASAND appreciates that people outside of our organization are enthusiastic about getting rid of the murals. These murals stir up strong emotion, especially in the people being misrepresented. We welcome more dialogue about the murals and the response from native and non-native students alike.”



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