Inaccurate, 'offensive' art – and whether it should be in Minnesota's Capitol


There are 148 pieces of artwork in Minnesota's Capitol.

Among those are paintings that depict Native Americans in a way that groups say is inaccurate or offensive, and the subject of violence – so The Circle is calling for those works to be better explained, or moved elsewhere.

"Thousands of school children tour the Capitol each year, students of all colors," the story in The Circle says. "There is little in the current art that tells children of color they belong in the Capitol."

The Circle, which says it's "dedicated to presenting news from a Native American perspective," is calling for art that's "glorifying the conquest of Indians" to be removed, and have a petition they're asking people to sign.

The paintings (there's a list of some examples, along with details, here) feature inaccurate depictions of Native Americans, and frequently show them being threatened or killed by whites, the group says.

That includes "Discoverers and Civilizers Led to the Source of the Mississippi," a 1905 work by Edwin H. Blashfield that's in the Senate chambers (seen above). The Circle News says it shows Native Americans in little clothing – which is an inaccurate portrayal and "offensive" – and with the snarling dogs, shows the native people under threat.

The discussion about the works started last month, MPR reported, with state lawmaker Rep. Dianne Loeffler, a Democrat from Minneapolis, telling the news organization some of the art has "romanticized visions of Native Americans that portray them in ways that we don’t believe the historical record supports them, in terms of dress and those sorts of things."

She added: “So, as a place people go to learn history, that’s a concern.”

Whether works such as that one are on display is partly up to the people.

There's an art subcommittee, created to get the public's opinion on what art should (and shouldn't) be in the renovated Capitol once it reopens in 2017. Meetings to start gathering feedback start Nov. 10 in Rochester, with five more scheduled throughout the state the rest of the month (click here for the full schedule).

The group is also looking at governor portraits and Civil War-related art.

The subcommittee – which includes lawmakers and citizens. – has met a few times so far including Oct. 12, when Gwen Westerman, a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota, told KARE 11: "Imagine what it must be like to see your family members or yourself depicted in this art, coming from a Dakota perspective."

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