Saint Louis University has removed a statue depicting a prominent Jesuit missionary praying over two Native Americans following pressure from faculty and staff who complained it represented white supremacy.
The statue featuring Fr. Pierre-Jean De Smet stood in front of Fusz Hall for more than 60 years until its removal last Wednesday. Its new home will be inside the private Catholic university’s art museum, a building just north of campus, The College Fix reported.
“In more recent years, there have been some faculty and staff who have raised questions about whether the sculpture is culturally sensitive,” Clayton Berry, SLU’s assistant vice president for communications, told St. Louis Magazine. “Hearing that feedback, the decision was made to place the piece within the historical context of a collection that’s on permanent display in our SLU Museum of Art.”
The De Smet statue has long been the target of criticism by students who believe it symbolizes white cultural dominance and slavery.
A recent op-ed in SLU’s University News by senior Ryan McKinley argued the statue sent a clear message of intolerance to Native American students.
“This message to American Indians is simple: You do not belong here if you do not submit to our culture and our religion,” he wrote. “The statue of De Smet depicts a history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy.”