To celebrate Columbus Day, I decided to check in on Minnesota’s statue of Christopher Columbus. The statue has been in cold storage at an undisclosed government location since being violently torn down by activists in 2020, all under the watchful eye of Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.
Why hasn’t the statue been repaired and returned to its pedestal on the State Capitol grounds?
The agency in charge is the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board. Since the Columbus statue was vandalized, they have been promulgating new state rules governing commemorative works in the Capitol area. The rules, which were published in August 2022, don’t address what happens when a statue is torn down without permission. Apparently, we’re just going to forget that ever happened and move on.
In the future, if citizens have a problem with a statue or artwork at the Capitol, the new rules provide a lengthy and detailed process for getting it removed. The process includes a 30 day period for public comment. This new due process was not afforded to poor Chris before his statue was summarily torn down on a Wednesday afternoon.
There are nine pages of rules addressing the steps needed to add a new statue or piece of art to the Capitol area. The most important new rule being if an individual is the subject of an artwork, the individual must have lived in Minnesota or the geographical area now identified as Minnesota for at least five years during the individual’s life. Sorry, Christopher Columbus, you’re out.
The new residency requirement for artwork is also likely to cause trouble for another well-traveled explorer with a statue on the Capitol campus — Leif Erikson. Like Columbus, Erickson walked the earth long before there was a state or territory called Minnesota.
It’s also not clear how the commission plans to deal with the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., considering he never lived in Minnesota. Is there a grandfather clause? What happens if someone vandalizes or steals the Martin Luther King bust? Will they replace it? And if so, why not replace the Columbus statue using the same grandfather logic?
Of course, we know the answer to these questions. It has to do with the lens used to view historical figures. Leftist figures like King, Hubert Humphrey and Floyd B. Olson are always going to fare better under the rules than Christopher Columbus.
Our Spring 2021 Thinking Minnesota poll showed 60% of Minnesotans were opposed to renaming landmarks in the name of social justice. Readers interested in this topic should attend our upcoming event in New Ulm titled Weaponizing History — How the Left is distorting the facts to advance a modern political agenda. Senior Policy Fellow Katherine Kersten will expose how organizations like the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota Department of Education are using history as a vehicle to advance a self-interested political agenda – even when that requires grossly distorting the factual record.
To celebrate Columbus Day in Minnesota, citizens should demand the return of his statue.