A Minnesota state senator heralded the celebration of Columbus Day Monday and called for the restoration of a Christopher Columbus statue on Capitol grounds.
State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, a Republican from Alexandria, posted a message on his official Facebook page praising the holiday and criticizing Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan for their “poor leadership” in the face of the statue’s destruction.
“Today, we celebrate Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas and the dawn of Western Civilization in the New World. Unfortunately, in Minnesota, Governor Walz would prefer if you didn’t celebrate, let alone acknowledge the historical event,” he wrote.
Last June members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) forcibly tore down a statue of the Italian explorer at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, amid nationwide protesting, rioting, and vandalism following the death of George Floyd.
Ingebrigtsen noted that the statue, a gift to the state of Minnesota from ethnically Italian residents, “remains in logistical purgatory held at a warehouse with no plans for repair or restoration despite no legislative agreement to do so.” He also called out state leadership for not prosecuting the statue destroyers and not requesting any compensation from them.
“We must remember that the Governor and his administration didn’t stand up to the people who damaged the statue, didn’t ask for penalties, and didn’t demand full restitution for the destruction they caused,” he said.
The organizer of the destruction, Michael Anthony Forcia, received a mere slap on the wrist last December. Avoiding trial and jail time, he received as “punishment” 100 hours of community service and the obligation to write a letter acknowledging his wrongdoing.
Ingebrigtsen feels strongly about the restoration of the Columbus statue. On March 10 he introduced a bill that would’ve forced Gov. Walz to repair and reinstall the statue, though the bill was soon returned to committee after a second reading and has not seen any further action.
Then in May almost 5,000 Minnesotans signed a petition calling on Gov. Walz to repair and reinstall the statue, but state government emails from June 2020 suggest that his administration had long decided against reinstalling it.
While Ingebrigtsen may be celebrating Columbus Day, other Minnesota politicians are celebrating “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” a holiday that did not exist before 1992 and was not adopted on a broad scale until 2014.
“Today I join Governor Walz and all Minnesotans in honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and especially celebrate Minnesota’s Ojibwe and Dakota nations,” U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum said in a Monday statement. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors the first people who lived in North America and their immeasurable value and contributions. As we celebrate these resilient and strong communities, we acknowledge the importance of the U.S. government upholding its trust and treaty obligations to tribal governments.”
Just this past Friday President Joe Biden signed a presidential proclamation formally recognizing “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” as a national holiday, the first U.S. president to do so.