A statue in the middle of the campus of Saint Louis University, a private Jesuit institution, depicted famous Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet S.J. praying over two Native Americans dressed in traditional clothing. There had been increasingly intense demands from some faculty and student activists to remove the statue. Summarizing the objections, a student editorial recently argued that the statue sent an unacceptable message to Native Americans and others that
“You do not belong here if you do not submit to our culture and our religion…The statue of De Smet depicts a history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy.”
[ The editorial also said that “As the protests surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner have shown us, just because racist policies are off the books doesn’t mean that racism is no longer practiced.” I am trying not to allow that fatuous, counter-factual and ignorant statement cause me to regard the writer and his piece as unworthy of serious consideration.]
Naturally, as is almost always the case, the spineless, path-of-least-resistance driven administrators at the university capitulated, and moved the statue into some museum. Note that this is a Jesuit university, and teaching is one of the primary things that the Jesuit order does.
De Smet was a remarkable individual who, far from imposing his beliefs on Native Americans, began his obsession with starting far West missions for the native tribes in the U.S. after the Salish and the neighboring Nez Perce sent four delegations to St. Louis, where he was stationed, to find a “black robe” to live among them. Continue reading