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SAINT PAUL, Minn. — On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, the Minnesota Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee voted to advance a bill to repair and return the statue of Christopher Columbus to the Minnesota State Capitol Grounds. 

Senate Bill 1903 was introduced by Republican State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (Alexandria, Minn.) and co-sponsored by Republican State Sens. Paul Utke (Park Rapids), Bruce Anderson (Saint Paul), and Scott Newman (Hutchinson), as well as Independent State Sen. David Tomassoni (Bemidji). 

On June 10, 2020, Native News Online reported that the statue of Christopher Columbus was toppled by a group of mainly Indigenous women at the Minnesota State Capitol grounds in Saint Paul, Minn. At the scene of the toppling, no one was arrested. However, two months later, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office charged Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal member Mike Forcia with criminal damage to property in the first degree. On Dec. 7, 2020, a Ramsey County judge agreed to a “Stay of Imposition” where Forcia would serve 100 hours of community service through teaching and education and the state would drop the felony charge.

The toppling of the statue led to damage of more than $154,000, according to a 13,000-page report by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The bill, in part, reads “the statue was illegally removed from its place on the Capitol grounds in the summer of 2020.”

“Rioters do not dictate the policies of our state, nor do their opinions and beliefs represent the views of every Minnesotan,” said Minnesota State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen to Alpha News MN earlier this month.

“Rioters should certainly not dictate the policies of the state,” said Bad River Tribal member and AIM Twin Cities Chairman Mike Forcia to Native News Online. “Just like white supremacists, or their supporters, should not be dictating state policy.” 

“We were not rioters,” said Forcia. “We were peaceful protestors committing an act of civil disobedience.” 

“Everybody in the state of Minnesota owns the statue, and everybody in the state of Minnesota comes to see this (statue), and there seems to be a push to remove our history,” Ingebrigtsen said. 

However, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan disagrees.  

“As Chair of the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board (CAAPB), Lieutenant Governor Flanagan is committed to facilitating inclusive conversations about the statues and artwork located on the Capitol complex,” said a spokesperson for Lt. Gov. Flanagan to Native News Online. “Any conversation about the future of the Minnesota State Capitol should include the voices of all Minnesotans to build a space where everyone is seen, heard, and valued, which is why the CAAPB has convened two task forces to provide recommendations on further public engagement and changes to current policy.”

“I still have some community service hours and I was hoping Senator Ingebrigtsen could help me get on the Senate floor to speak to the Senate because they obviously need a history lesson,” said Forcia.

“Christopher Columbus was a colonizer, a mass murderer and a racist,” said Minnesota Democratic Sen. Omar Fateh. “To restore this statue to its original place with taxpayer money is a giant slap in the face to our Native brothers and sisters.”

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About The Author
Author: Darren Thompson
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a freelance journalist and based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where he also contributes to Unicorn Riot, an alternative media publication. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.