Columbus Monument in Disrepair: Will it Get State Money?; MN Tribe Wants Elk Restored; Abandoned Uranium Mines a Health Threat to Natives

We have dedicated quite a bit of space this blog critiquing art inside the Minnesota State Capitol, adding only a few passing posts on the outdoor monuments. It was a pragmatic choice. The state-appointed Art Subcommittee has driven the debate around Capitol art, and it’s focused on art inside the Capitol. Its recommendations will not include outdoor statues.
Now comes a story from Minnesota Public Radio headlined: Time takes toll on historical markers at Capitol, which reminds us of the roughly two dozen memorials and markers on the Capitol grounds. Two of the more controversial monuments honor  Christopher Columbus (Idle No More Twin Cities has called for its removal) and the statue to former Minnesota Governor, U.S. Representative and Senator Knute Nelson (a key player in federal policies that stripped Ojibwe people of land and resources). Both statues have prominent locations: Columbus on the Capitol’s east lawn and Nelson on the Capitol’s front steps.

According to MPR:
The deterioration of memorials – a threat to their stability and to visitor safety – was documented in a consultant’s 2013 study, which recommended more than $4.4 million be devoted to conservation and maintenance over a 10-year time frame. The study’s authors put a Christopher Columbus statue atop their list of priority repairs
Gov. Mark Dayton’s recommendations for the upcoming bonding bill has $350,000 “to repair and restore the Peace Officers Memorial and the Roy Wilkins Memorial.” (See page 25.) While he has no money dedicated to Columbus or Nelson, the legislature could decide to fund it. The bonding process bears watching. If the statues get repaired, it will make it more difficult to remove them.
In a related matter, last legislative session, HF1727 and SF1821 were introduced recommending an engraving change to the Columbus memorial. The sum total of the bill reads as follows:
The commissioner of administration in consultation with the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board shall have the original engraving on the statue of Christopher Columbus on the Capitol mall changed to read “Christopher Columbus Landed in America.”
Those bills were introduced late last session and didn’t get any traction, but they are still alive for the upcoming session.
Fond du Lac Band Wants “Prairie Moose” Restored in Northern MN
Minnesota Public Radio reports that the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe wants to restore elk, a.k.a. “omashkoozoog,” or “prairie moose” to its native home:
“It’s restoring not just a part of the band’s wildlife heritage but everybody’s wildlife heritage,” said Mike Schrage, a wildlife biologist with the tribe. “We used to have thousands of elk in the state and we’re down to 130.”
Abandoned Uranium Mines a Threat to Natives — and Everyone Else

Starting today, Indigenous representatives from the Northern Great Plains & Southwest will be in the District of Columbia (DC) for several days to raise awareness about radioactive pollution from abandoned uranium mines.

According to media release from the group “Clean Up the Mines.

South Dakota has 272 Abandoned Uranium Mines (AUMs) which are contaminating waterways such as the Cheyenne River, and desecrating sacred and ceremonial sites. An estimated 169 AUMs are located within 50 miles of Mt. Rushmore where millions of tourists risk exposure to radioactive pollution each year. …

[Nationally] Indigenous communities have been disproportionately impacted as approximately 75% of AUMs are located on federal and Tribal lands. …

Currently, no comprehensive law … requires clean-up of all these dangerous abandoned uranium mines allowing corporations and the federal government to walk away without taking responsibility for the continuing harms they have caused.

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