Native American Student Association of Notre Dame protests Columbus murals
Lucy Lynch | Tuesday, October 10, 2017
The Native American Student Association of Notre Dame (NASAND) gathered outside the Main Building, organizing a peaceful protest of the university’s Gregori murals Monday afternoon. The aim of the organization is to obtain the University’s commitment to Native American diversity through a peaceful manner.
Commissioned by Fr. Edward Sorin, Vatican artist Luigi Gregori painted these large murals, displayed in the Main Building. According to a statement by the University regarding the Columbus murals, Sorin wanted art that represented the Catholic spirit of the University. However, NASAND protested the misrepresentation of Columbus’ ways along with the offensive and stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in the murals.
The peaceful protest began with speeches from NASAND members, who spoke of the importance of Native American representation on campus, and was followed by a more informal forum, giving attendees the opportunity to ask NASAND students questions.
NASAND president and senior Dom Acri discussed some of the problems associated with the Gregori murals. Acri talked about the University’s use of the William Faulkner quote, “The past is never dead, it is not even past,” and he said NASAND hopes to take back this sentiment and make people aware of Native American culture and significance.
“In an attempt to address these understandably controversial, and what our group would even call openly marginalizing murals, we are reminded that like this quote suggests, we must recognize the past because it is still here with us,” Acri said.
In addition to making students, faculty and administration aware of NASAND’s desire for greater recognition and inclusion from the University, the organization has detailed goals for greater diversification throughout the school year.
Acri said the student group wants to be talked to, not talked about. NASAND wants to hold a town hall meeting regarding the status and further actions in dealing with the Gregori murals, something Acri said is strengthened by the involvement of allied members.
“What we need is for people to get behind us and help our movement gain momentum,” Acri said.
Among other important plans are the group’s hope to serve as a connection to the Pokagon band — the tribe whose land Notre Dame rests on. Acri said NASAND would like to assist in the recruitment of a Native American faculty and establish a Native American Studies program, bring back the Notre Dame powwow and achieve greater involvement in Notre Dame’s “Walk the Walk” event.
“A diverse community strengthens Notre Dame’s mission and allows students to open their minds to new perspectives,” Acri said. “But when the only representation that we have right now is these murals, we don’t think Notre Dame is fulfilling that goal. We wanted to have this event in order to help Notre Dame achieve their mission.”