ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The State of Minnesota does not have monuments to the Confederacy, but that does not mean its statues and memorials are without controversy.

The only Civil War statues in Minnesota honor the Union soldiers who came from the young state. But State Capitol memorials — like Christopher Columbus — are generating similar anger, and getting closer scrutiny.

Native Americans object to the 1931 statue, inscribed in stone as the “Discoverer” of America.

What bothers critics?

“The fact that he’s been attributed having ‘discovered’ America,” said Paul Mandell, the executive secretary of the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board. “Not that he landed here.”

Mandell is among the top state officials who regulate monuments on the 10-acre State Capitol mall.

In 1992, Columbus got a new plaque explaining how the explorer actually “initiated the merging of the cultures between the old and new worlds.”

“I think it’s important that we capture history somehow, but certainly there’s a point where what you honor and what you recall are two different things,” Madell said.

Columbus is one of several State Capitol memorials “re-interpreted” because of questionable content.

There’s a new bronze plaque that was added to a Spanish American War Memorial, correcting the inscription and reflecting the suffering of Filipinos.

The original memorial honored Minnesota soldiers who “battled to free the oppressed peoples of the Philippine Islands, who suffered under the despotic rule of Spain.”

The corrected language reads: “The United States entered that war to defeat Spain, not to free the Filipinos.  Most of the battles listed above were fought against Filipinos.”

Two controversial paintings of Native Americans, considered offensive and historically inaccurate, were recently removed from the Governor’s office. The paintings, which depict Father Hennepin at St, Anthony Falls and the signing of the Traveser Des Sioux Treaty, are not hidden from public view.

Instead, the Historical Society displays them prominently in a public gallery with a new interpretation.

“Of course we look at that with a different lens today, that it’s really a tragic part of the story of the Dakota people,” said Brian Pease, the Minnesota Historical Society State Capitol Site Director. “They sold their land, were put on reservations, had the U.S.-Dakota War. They were exiled from the state.”

A bill at the Minnesota Legislature would order the state to chisel out the word “Discoverer” of America on the Christopher Columbus statue. And a recent bill also tried unsuccessfully to erase the word “discovered” America from a nearby statue of Leif Ericson.

Mandell says the state takes seriously the words — and also the outdated words — on the monuments, but says the memorials can be altered, not scapped.

“These need to be preserved, but some place where you can give context,” he said.

Pat Kessler

Comments (4)
  1. Time for the democrats to grow up and stop the butt hurt over the trump victory. We all know that none of this would be an issue if they had won. Democrats time to look at yourselves in the mirror and say “I HAVE A PROBLEM”

  2. Greg Laden says:

    The thing about the confederate monuments in comparison to all the others is that the former were mostly erected at the start of the Jim Crow era, or during the Civil Rights era, often paid for or lobbied for by groups like the KKK, in order to intimidate or insult African Americans.

    So, while some of the monuments discussed here are certain objectionable for valid reasons, the comparison between the confederate monuments and these others is misleading.

    So, making a Christopher Columbus statue say something different may be a good idea, but many of the confederate monuments simply can’t be changed that way and should be sent to the trash heap.

    By the way, it is easy to “decide” to put a monument in a museum and have the museum people take care of it. That’s like dropping off a new menu at your local restaurant and telling them to cook it, or like the local high school sending half its students to the elementary school with instructions to teach them. Museums have limited resources and space, and are obligated to curate everything that ends up in their care. You can’t just solve some random problem by foisting a big heavy thing made of stone and metal on some unsuspecting museum with a note, “Hi, my name is Richard Taney, I caused the Civil War, please take care of me.”

  3. All Democrats can F OFF and DIE. You phony hypocrite piles of excrement. You liberals think you can gain power by destroying historical statues and monuments like the Taliban did in Afghanistan and ISIS in the Mideast. Robert Byrd was a Democrat and the leader of the Democrat party. Robert Byrd was also a KKK Grand Wizard most of his life. So why is his name on everything in West Virginia? Democrats were the party of slavery. Democrats fought against the civil rights movement. Ohhhh, but we have to play these stupid games and worthless liberal trash like WCCO has to play sides with the Democrats 24/7. Bunch of frauds. Pat Kessler? That guy has been called out for his liberal biased reporting almost daily.

  4. There is a war currently going on within the USA. An old left wing militant group “KKK” started and run by democrat leaders are fighting with the current left wing militant group called “Antifi” and the left media blames the President. More and more are leaving the dem party due to all it’s hate. Maybe it is time to remove all of the photos and portraits of those evil people who fought for racist segregation laws in the 60s. Hundreds of dem photos would need to be removed from our state and federal buildings. One can start with Al Gores father.
    Which left wing militant groups are going to disrupt the state fair? Friends of Amy, Al, and Keith. Time to tell the truth. Media needs to tell it correctly.