Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

It is time for the murals to go

Dear Fr. Jenkins, It is time for the murals to go. The 12 Luigi Gregori murals have adorned the main hall of Main Building for over 130 years, greeting millions of campus residents and visitors with a highly problematic vision of Western triumphalism, Catholic militarism and an overly romantic notion of American expansion. Christopher Columbus, as admitted by the University published pamphlet and widely acknowledged by modern scholarship, was an owner and distributor of humans as slaves. Columbus’ fortune, fame and wealth came from the destruction, mutilation and transaction of Native American and African persons. According to the University’s own pamphlet, the murals are specifically designed to “create a heroic impression” of someone who owned, traded and sold humans as slaves, as well as someone who initiated one of the largest genocides in human history. The murals welcome every newcomer and greet every football fan with their place of honor in Main Building, posing a clear answer to the question, “Who is Notre Dame?” And while the reasons for removing the murals have been repeated many times by many individuals and groups over the last three decades, we must continue to repeat them until something is done. First, to any Native American student, staff member, faculty member or visitor who enters Main Building, the murals offer the most debasing form of insult. 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. While recent efforts to honor the past relationship between the Pokagon Tribe and Notre Dame are commendable, true progress will be impossible until the murals are removed. Second, to any student, staff, faculty or guest who identifies with an historically oppressed group, the presence of the murals in 21st century America mocks every attempt to make campus more inclusive, more diverse and more culturally sensitive. African slaves are depicted comically, and Columbus’ incipient role in the buying and selling of humans as chattel is depicted as a holy and Christian act. Once again, while the University has made strides to become more ethnically diverse in recent years, the continued central presence of the murals nullifies the inclusive message that, for example, the iconic image of Father Hesburgh and Dr. King attempts to demonstrate. Third, art history is replete with racial biases and problematic tensions. Such tensions belong in museums where they can be studied, not alongside Notre Dame’s most honored award recipients and former presidents. This includes Fr. Sorin, after whose image Gregori modeled Columbus specifically in order that Columbus be more revered. To claim, as the University does, that one could revere other figures on the walls of Main Building but view the murals dispassionately, “in an almost clinical way,” can only be described as willful blindness to the reality of the effect of the paintings. Fourth, and finally, the theological message of the murals is one the University should utterly disavow and repudiate. For example, several of the images offer the explicit theological message that the sufferings of a slave trader are analogous to the sufferings of Christ. Many popes have apologized and worked to make amends for the harm done to Native and African populations in the name of Christ. The Church as a whole regrets and repents the abominable actions of torture, enslavement, rape and systematic execution that became commonplace with the advent of Columbus’ voyages. God will judge historical persons according to God’s own merits, but the Church demands that those of us following Christ today must strive for universal human dignity in order to begin to mend the broken global body of Christ. There is no place in the modern Church, not to mention in a modern Catholic university, for glorifying a Christianity of murder and enslavement. Native students have been urging the administration to deal with the murals since at least the early 1990s. The administration, time and time again, has delayed, obfuscated, printed pamphlets and denied any ability to effectively fix the concrete problems the murals represent. As such, while it is tragic that a letter like this is necessary in 2017, as long as the murals remain unchanged, we must continue to protest, write, plead and demand their removal. There are many different options available to the University moving forward, and more discussion is necessary, but status quo is not enough. The easily overlooked pamphlets are not enough. In this era of political divisiveness and a renewed rise of dangerous nationalism, it is time for Notre Dame to remove its own version of a Confederate monument. It is time for the murals to go. Sincerely,

John P. Slattery, Ph.D. ’17

Dominic Acri ’18

Sicangu Oyate

Carrera Brown ’18


Molly Demel ’18


Angela Dunsmoor ’18


Armani Porter ’18

Eastern Band Cherokee

William Wolfe, MBA ’18

Potawatomi Nation

James L. Weitzel ‘19


Mark Brinegar ‘20

Muskogee Creek

Jebraune Chambers ’20


Sarah Maazouz ’20

Cree Tribe

Grayson Maker ’20


Rebecca Parmenter ’20

Stockbridge Munsee Community Band of Mohicans

Hibram Sanchez ’20

Pasqua Yaqui

Lia Acri SMC ’21

Sicangu Oyate

Clare Armstrong ’21

Osage Tribe

Mikaela Murphy ’21


Keely Thornton ‘21

Choctaw Nation

Zoe Prendergast ‘21


Marcus Winchester-Jones ’21

Pokégnek Bodéwadmik

Steve Alagna ’11, M.Ed ’13

Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska

Summer Bernard ’17

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Elizabeth Bird '91

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma

Kameron Chappell ‘04

Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Stephanie De Luna ’14

Navajo and Taos Pueblo

Rosalie V. DePaola ’16, MS ’17

Muscogee (Creek)

Deswood Etsitty ’93


Otto J. LaPointe ‘97

Ponca Tribe of Nebraska

Vanessa Lucero ‘98

Tohono O’odham Nation

Tamera Miyasato ‘08


Tralynna Sherrill Scott ’06


Andrea Topash-Rios, ’95, MA ‘96

associate teaching professor of romance languages and literatures

Pokagon Band of Potawatomi

Monica Tsethlikai ’92


Tara Wolfe

Caddo Nation of Oklahoma

Brian Collier

Institute for Educational Initiatives

John Duffy

professor of English

Kevin Barry

director of Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning

Cecilia Lucero ’84

First Year of Studies

Fr. Don LaSalle

First Year of Studies

Robert Walls

professor of American Studies

Mike Hebbeler

discernment and advocacy director for Center for Social Concerns

Michelle Ware

First Year of Studies

Ricky Herbst

cinema program director

Steven Battin

professor of theology

Michael J. Cramer

associate professional specialist of biological sciences

David Flagel

assistant professional specialist of biological sciences

Karen Graubart

associate professor of history

Mary Celeste Kearney

director of gender studies; associate professor of film, television and theatre

Marisel Moreno

associate professor of romance languages and literatures

Jean A. Dibble

professor of art

Elena Mangione-Lora

associate teaching professor of romance languages and literatures

Chaz Barbour

Office of Information Technologies staff

Julia Douthwaite

professor of French

Deb Rotman

department of anthropology

Cheri Smith

librarian in Hesburgh Libraries

Monica Kowalski ’03, M.Ed ’05

Charlice Hurst

assistant professor of business

Joanna Lin Want

assistant teaching professor of University Writing Program

Catherine Bolten

associate professor of anthropology and peace Studies

Carolina Arroyo

associate director of undergraduate studies of political science

Philip J. Sakimoto

First Year of Studies

Katrina Barron

associate professor of mathematics

Leo Guardado

graduate student

Margaret Anne Doody

Glynn Family professor of literature

Jill Godmilow

professor emeritus of film, television and theatre

Amitava Krishna Dutt

professor of political science

Beth Gelroth Klein

Law Library staff

Mark A. Sanders

professor of English and Africana studies

Gayle Carter

department coordinator of Africana studies

Susan D. Blum

professor of anthropology

Emily Wang

assistant professor of German and Russian

Agustin Fuentes

professor of anthropology

Jennifer Warlick

associate professor of public policy and economics

Darlene Hampton

academic advisor in First Year of Studies

Annie Selak

former rector, 2010–14

Michelle Wirth

visiting assistant professor of psychology

Atalia Omer

associate professor of peace studies

Stephen Fredman

professor emeritus of English

Anne Hayner

associate director for alumni relations of Kroc Institute

Anna Geltzer

assistant director for education of Reilly Center

Liz Dube

head of preservation of Hesburgh Libraries

Neil Chase

administrative coordinator of Medieval Institute

Valerie Sayers

professor of English

Christine Becker

associate professor of film, television and theatre

Melissa Marley Bonnichsen

seminars director of Center for Social Concerns

Leonor Wangensteen ’03, MA ’09

First Year of Studies

Crystal Spring

graduate student

Anna Fett

graduate student

Kyle Lantz

assistant director of Center for Social Concerns seminar program

Laura D. Walls

professor of English

Todd Walatka

assistant chair for graduate studies in theology

Lisa Oglesbee

coordinator of English for academic purposes in the Center for the Study of Languages and Culture

Bryan Ricketts ’16, ’17

Ray'Von Jones ’16

Maya Jain ’17

Julia Feder ’14

Katalin Fabian, MA ‘90

Olivia Furman ‘17

Raquel Falk ’20

Shanna Gast ’11

Molly Burke ’15

Lindsey Wieck ’16

Cassidy Leyendecker ’17

Julia Buff ’15

Sarah Morice Brubacker, Ph.D. ’11

Janna L. Hunter-Bowman '17

assistant professor of Christian social ethics and peace studies

Emma Fulce ‘12

Elizabeth Curtin ‘15

Bridget O’Brien ‘05

Katie Grimes, ’05, M.T.S. ’09 

Megan McCabe, M.T.S ’10

Lauren Price ’05

Corbin Johnson ’11

Alex Rice ’16

Michelle Sawwan

graduate student

Mary Patano ’17

Andrea (Swinehart) Staron ’03

William Stewart ’12

Elizabeth Zapf ’86

Pacifico Soldati ’07

Daniel Passon ’16

Karen Lawler ’05

Ellen Kennedy ‘05

Daniel O’Hare, M.T.S '03, Ph.D. ’09

Kaitlyn Dudley Curtin ’11

Elizabeth Hascher ’18

Steven Fisher ’16

Keziah Conrad, MA ’08

Amy Johnson, MA ‘95

Amy Scanlon, MA ‘97

Winifred Romeril, MA ‘93

Sharon Kniss, MA ’14

Laura Snider, MA ’10

Clint Robert Niehus, MA ’17

Erica Vesnaver ’12

associate director of Alliance for Catholic Education

Grace Deardurff ’14

Kelsey Behan ’13

Peace Maari ’16

Kelly Cronin ‘15

Catherine Carothers ’15

Casey Baker ’17

Aniela Tyksinski ’17

Mary Connolly ’17

Gabrielle Dohmen ’17

Katherine Baltes ’17

Kyra Blas ‘18

Becca Williams ’17

Jonathan Brenneman, MA ’16

Luis Miranda, MA ’17

Morgan Rooney ‘17

Jennifer Betz ’02

Kaitlyn Krall ’16

Adriana Holguin ’00

Enrique Lorenzo ’16

Yurianna Kim ’08

Michelle Saucedo ’10

Carrol Kelly SMC ’87

Hector Avitia ’10

Daniel Gonzalez ’95

Mary (Etsitty) Kieyoani ’96

Jaime Luna ’09

Maya (Noronha) Duff ’05

Marcelo Reyna ’93

Ashleigh A. Renteria ’11

Katie Ward ’19

Katie Hieatt ’20

Michael Dunn ’21

Samuel Cho ’18

Adam Moeller ’18

Isabel Rooper ’20

Anthony Luc ’19

Kaleem Minor ‘20

Qai Gordon ‘18

Trebor Goodall ‘19

Tyler Newsome ’18

Juan Hernandez ‘19

Elizabeth Hoch ’21

Rosemary Agwuncha ’18

Emily Moll ’21

Lillian Merrigan ’20

Kaitlyn Cortez ‘18

Kelly Valenzi ’18

Liam Maher ‘18

Enzo Ambrose ’21

Hannah O'Brien ’19

Lily Falzon ‘18

Katie Laskey ’17

Sophia Costanzo ’19

Katie Durine ‘18

Beatriz Guzman ’20

Ben Schultz ‘18

Perez Grinston ’16

Claire Migliore ’19

Amy Mansfield ’19

Celene Olguin ‘18

Baylea Williams ‘18

Maria Vigil ‘18

Marissa Ray ‘17

Promise Choice ’18

Juliana McCabe ’19

Emma Scheibel ’20

James Zwierzynski ’19

Lauren Boutros ‘19

Flora Tang ’18

Carolyn Yvellez ‘18

Arielle Sims ’17

Natasha Reifenberg ’18

Daniel Esparza, ’18

Laura Gruszka ‘17

Lawrenzo Howell ’18

Eric Ways ‘18

Steven Jessen-Howard ’18

George Timmins ‘19

Joey Wikelski ’18

Cynthia Tran ’19

Juliana Tiscareno ’19

Patrick McCabe ’21

Matt Laboe ‘18

Roslyn Joseph ‘19

Quinn Scallon ‘20

Cindy Lee ’18

Amanda Ball ’18

Abigail Cho ’20

Sean Ebben ‘21

Julia Erdlen ’18

Jaime Spencer ’21

Chris Toudouze ’21

Danica Crowley ’20

Samuel Jackson ‘20

Vivian Weinman ‘21

Jack Gallaher ‘18

Sean McMahon ’19

Sean McFeely ’19

Grace Garvey ‘19

Sara Berumen ’20

Nancy Dankwah ‘21

Carlos De Loera ’19

Matthew Aubourg ‘21

Margaret D’Auria ‘21

Alexandra Martínez ’21

Allison Hubbard ’19

Faith Harris ’21

Maria Esteve ’21

Bailey Logan ’20

Madeleine Thompson ’19

Mati Nemera ’18

Daniel Bland ‘18

Shantae Harris ’21

Lauren Watts ‘21

Anastasia Reisinger ‘21

David Stewart ’19

Ben Huls ‘21

Erin Egan ’21

Maria Sierra Caceres ’20

Kate Flanagan ’21

MaryKate Drennan ’21

Sylvia Ciocca ’19

Robert Wozniak ’18

Ana Lamberto ’20

Karla Burgos-Morón ’19

Silvia Camara ’19

Godsee Joy ’20

Grace Curtin ‘18

Joseph Tang ’18

Matthew Williams ’18

David Kelly ’18

Isabel Weber ’20

Rose Ashley ’19

Brandon Grier ‘21

Cristina Chavez ‘20

Morgan White ‘18

Delaney Roberts ’20

Timothy Burley ’21

Leah Harmon ’21

Gabrielle Brookins ‘19

Alice Felker ’20

Allyson Dewey ‘20

Jack Cobain ’18

Jacob McKenna ’18

Isabella Delgado-Castillo ’20

N'Kaela Webster ‘21

Malaysha Stewart ’18

Michaela Echols ’21

Hiba Kahouli ’18

Donald Luc ’19

Madeleine Andreas ’20

Katherine Fugate ’20

Kate Lenahan ’20

Joselia Souza ‘19

Chloe Spurgat ‘20

Drew Lischke ’20

Brenna Leahy ’18

Roxana Rodriguez ’18

Karly Brown ’21

Reggie Whittaker ’20

Tess Ngochi ‘21

Leesa Greenwood ’20

Maddy Schierl ‘21

Allegra Wallingford ‘18

Julianna Vidales ’18

Naana Ocran ’20

Madison Loftin ‘19

Ryan Klaus ‘18

Gabriella Marines ‘21

Dan Marshall ’20

Savanna Morgan ’20

Aidan Mullaney ’20

Eileen DiPofi ’20

Sierra Rainey ’19

Samuel Costanzo ’12

Morgan Widhalm ’17

Xitlaly Estrada ‘17, ‘20 J.D. Candidate

Mujahid Osman ’19

John McLean

graduate student

Heather DuBois

graduate student

Jamee Elder

graduate student

Jesse James

graduate student

Sarah Naramore, Ph.D., history and philosophy of science

Kyle Lambelet, Ph.D ’17, postdoctoral fellow

Aliyah Abu-Hazeem, Ph.D., sociology

Peter Ryan, Ph.D., sociology

Nancy Díaz, Ph.D., sociology

Matthew Chandler, Ph.D., sociology and peace studies

Danae Jacobson, graduate student

Monika Yadav, graduate student

Karie Cross, Postdoctoral Fellow, Peace Studies and Political Science

Yijing Deng ’22, graduate student

Ruiyang Chen ’22, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering

Yu Shi ’22, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering

Angela Lederach ’07, PhD Candidate, Anthropology and Peace Studies

Todd P. Marek, Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology Department

Lailatul Fitriyah, PhD Candidate, Theology

Amanda Daniela Cortez, Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology

Dania Straughan MA ’16, Kroc

Paul Anh McEldowney, PhD candidate, Philosophy

Angela Chesler, PhD student, Kroc and Political Science

Garrett FitzGerald, PhD Student, Peace Studies and Political Science

Mallika Sarma, PhD student, Anthropology

Symone A. Johnson, Ph.D. Student, Anthropology

Laura Weis, PhD Candidate, Peace Studies and History

Clair Mesick, PhD Candidate, Theology

Kayla Hurd, Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology

Michael Yankoski, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

Sebastian Murgueitio Ramirez, Graduate Student, HPS

Boyna Bear, Osage, NACA Inspired Schools Network Fellow

Scott Conroy

Brandon Scott, Executive Editor, Cherokee Phoenix Newspaper


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.