Two notable Minnesota State Senate Republicans wrote the state Historical Society recently to ask when the statue of Christopher Columbus will be replaced outside the Capitol building.
State Senators Carla Nelson and Bill Ingebrigtsen chair the Education Finance and Environment and Natural Resources Finance committees respectively. They wrote Kent Whitworth, the Director and CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society, regarding a statue of Christopher Columbus that was torn down by vandals last month.
The letter underscores the “legal status of the statue” in contrast with its “illegal removal,” and concludes with the senators asking Whitworth to “inform us [the senators] how you [the Historical Society] intent to proceed with regard to this matter.”
The Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board (CAAPB) does not need to approve the replacement of the statue because of Minnesota Statute 138.68, per the senators. That statute reads that “[n]o monument, memorial or work of art shall be relocated, or removed from, or placed in [the Capitol or Capitol grounds]… without the approval of the Minnesota State Historical Society.”
“It is clear to us that although the statue has been moved to another location… the Historical Society has not provided the approval required under… [this statute] for the removal,” the letter reads. Because of this, Nelson and Ingebrigtsen say that the Society alone, not the CAAPB, has jurisdiction over what happens to the statue.
Despite this, the Society claims that it can not act to repair the Columbus monument without CAAPB approval. The Board also claims that a different statute gives it justistition of the statue as well.
“We would like you to inform us how you intent to proceed with regard to this matter,” the letter reads concludes. “If you believe that there is work that must be performed on the statue before it can be returned to its location, please provide an explanation of that work as well.”
The recently toppled Columbus statue has stood outside the state Capitol building since 1931 after it was received as a gift from Minnesota’s Italian American community, per the CAAPB. It was later restored in 1992 and has been criticized by the American Indian Movement (AIM) as a monument to a murderous “colonial pirate” for at least 15 years. AIM is the group responsible for destroying the statue recently.