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Petition heats up debate over Columbus statue in Mishawaka

NOW: Petition heats up debate over Columbus statue in Mishawaka

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – It’s a statue that has overlooked Mishawaka Avenue for 28 years, but according to some in the area, it only symbolizes racism against the original people who called Michiana home.

Central Park's Christopher Columbus statue was installed in the heart of the town in 1992 to celebrate 500 years of modern European exploration (Leif Erikson is accepted by historians as the first European to step foot in North America).

But as of Wednesday evening, almost one thousand online users think it should be taken down amidst nationwide upheaval against statues honoring men with white supremacist reputations.

Lifelong Mishawaka resident Autumn Steinike supports removing the statue, and said once she learned more about Columbus, she started to despise him, mentioning that her hometown is named after Princess Mishawaka of the Shawnee tribe.

“I took an actual history class and I found out that he committed mass genocide and raped and pillaged a bunch of Native Americans,” Steinike said.

“It’s kind of ironic to have a Columbus statue in the middle of The Princess City,” the petition’s creator Amanda Lynn said. “It doesn’t belong here. It’s kind of a slap in the face to why the city even has this name.”

Mishawaka City Hall currently has one statue of its namesake, plenty of reason according to Lynn to not also honor someone else whose history tells of torturing natives while establishing colonies.

“Remove it, and if you want to relocate it, put it in a museum somewhere,” Lynn said. “And put up something more friendly of what we are today.”

The Italian-American Heritage Society of Michiana however, disagrees and argues that removing the statue would be an insult to heritage.

Executive Director Peter Agostino said in a statement,

“Our focus today should be addressing present injustices without resorting to divisive tactics…Taking down a statue does not help feed, shelter or educate people living today, and that should be more important to all Americans collectively.”

Agostino added while he’s opposed to removing the statue, the group does support the city having more symbols to honor native people.

Mishawaka city leaders have yet to return ABC57’s request for comment.

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