Letter from the editors about this project


Graphic by Rebecca Edwards ’21.

The Mac Weekly Staff

This special issue of The Mac Weekly contains discussion of white supremacy, genocide and sexual violence. Some articles contain racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic language, along with quoted racial slurs. This language often particularly targets indigenous people. As you read, please be aware. 

In September, at the start of our 105th year, The Mac Weekly added a land acknowledgment to our staff box.

In an accompanying editorial, we wrote that our newspaper has a responsibility to actively call attention to and oppose the effects of colonialism at our college. We wrote that adding the land acknowledgment was “a first step, but by no means the last.”

Today, we’re taking another step.

In 2013, as many of you know, Macalester renamed its Humanities Building after the college’s founder and first president — a Presbyterian missionary, Civil War veteran and educational pioneer named Edward Neill.

As many of you also know, and as we detail at great length in this special issue, Edward Neill was not only a missionary, a soldier and an educator.

He was a settler-colonialist who advocated the genocide of the Dakota people. He was a white supremacist who believed indigenous people were sub-human. He was a thief who robbed and desecrated a Native gravesite. He was a misogynist who fiercely opposed the co-education of this college.

He also counted among his friends and colleagues the men who led the effort to colonize Minnesota and expel the Native population — people like Alexander Ramsey, William Marshall and Henry Sibley — and relied on their help to found Macalester on stolen indigenous land in 1874.

Neill was a man of multitudes, certainly. But his sins were legion, and they are unforgivable.

That’s why, starting next week, we will no longer use the name Neill Hall in our publication. We will instead refer to the building by its old name, the Humanities Building, until a new name is chosen for it.

We are also calling on Macalester College, its administration and board of trustees, to live up to its stated values and take Neill’s name off of a building in which its staff, faculty and students work and learn.

Every day that Neill’s name remains on the building is another day that Macalester honors who he was, what he stood for, why he came to this state and how he founded this institution.

The college’s decision to name a building after him — not in the distant past, but six years ago — speaks volumes about its decision-makers’ field of vision: the extent to which it not only excludes but also erases indigenous histories.

Of course, the struggle for equity and inclusion at Macalester goes far beyond the name of a single building.

Changing the name of Neill Hall must be the beginning of a broader institutional effort to both honestly portray and reckon with the college’s history and make amends for its role in the historic and continuous displacement of indigenous people.

That means changing the demographics of the campus — students, staff and faculty — to reflect the fact that Macalester sits in the metro area with one of the highest indigenous populations in the United States. It means actively partnering with indigenous community organizations. It means doing more.

Throughout the pages that follow, we have attempted not only to tell the early history of Macalester and of what is now Minnesota, but also to provide a blueprint to begin creating a better future at our college.

Thank you very much for reading and for engaging. Our work continues.

This letter is part of the Mac Weekly’s special reporting project, Colonial Macalester. Read the entire issue here.