Sick of the sight of Christopher Columbus, members of the American Indian Movement knocked him off his pedestal at the Minnesota Capitol last year.
At the time, there was no legal way to remove a monument once it had been planted at the Capitol or its grounds.
The state had only ever added statues and memorials to its collection. There was no paperwork, no procedures, no plan for taking monuments away. Not even monuments to people who, upon reflection, turned out to be genocidal seafarers or homegrown Nazis.
A year and a half after a dented Columbus was carted off to a state warehouse, there is still no paperwork, no procedure, no plan for where it should end up. A museum? A scrapyard? Another pedestal?
But the state plans to have a plan.
The Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board has been mulling the question of who does and does not deserve to be celebrated in our public spaces. The board just launched a public comment period to loop Minnesotans into the debate over these two questions:
Question 1: Do you think that there are reasons that the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board (CAAPB) should alter, reinterpret, or remove an existing monument, memorial, or commemorative artwork on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds?
Question 2: What steps do you suggest the CAAPB include in its process to consider adding, altering, reinterpreting, or removing a monument, memorial, or commemorative artwork on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds?
The answers, of course, are "yes," and "if you must display a statue of a murderous slavemongering failure, please embed Columbus facedown in the pavement where he fell with statues of Mike Forcia and other members of AIM Twin Cities jumping up and down on his head."
Columbus fell. But some in St. Paul keep trying to raise him up again.
Last session, a Minnesota Senate panel tried to get the state to spend approximately $154,000 to tidy up the statue and put it back in a place of honor. Ultimately, the decision was left to CAAPB.
"There seems to be a push to remove our history here in Minnesota and our country," state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said at the time, "and quite frankly that's the wrong direction."
When Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, there were 60 million people on these far shores. Within a century, disease and violence had killed 90% of the original inhabitants of two continents.
That isn't a part of our history we can forget. That isn't a part of our legacy we should celebrate.
On Nov. 18, the board's Task Force on Commemorative Works will meet to discuss the future of the Columbus statue, and other commemorative works at the Capitol that haven't aged well. Like, say, the two Charles Lindbergh statues that reflect all the Minnesota aviator's adventurous spirit and none of his rabid anti-Semitism and embrace of Nazi Germany.
If you're a fan of slow-motion, incremental rule making, punctuated by people screaming in the comment section about critical race theory, this is the state debate for you.
"As the CAAPB takes initial steps toward Rulemaking to establish a process for evaluating requests to alter or remove commemorative artwork, we are focused on listening to people from different communities and across the state about their vision for the Minnesota State Capitol," executive secretary Merritt Clapp-Smith said in a statement. "Our goal is to develop a fair, transparent, and accessible process that reflects the voices of Minnesota."
If you'd like your Minnesota voice heard on the Columbus question, visit here.