Columbus, cultural anthropologist Carol Delaney told CNA in 2017, has been "terribly maligned."
"I think a lot of people don't know anything much, really about Columbus," said Delaney, an anthropology professor emerita at Stanford University and the author of the 2011 book "Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem."
In 1492, the explorer, as American schoolchildren are taught, sailed the ocean blue.
But contrary to popular belief, Delaney said Columbus had a favorable impression of many of the Native Americans he met, and instructed the men under his command not to abuse them, but to trade with them. At one point Columbus hung some of his own men who had committed crimes against native people.
Columbus was not hell-bent on genocide, slavery, and rape of the native population he encountered in his travels, Delaney told the Knights of Columbus in 2017. In fact, the explorer was deeply religious, and hoped to evangelize the indigenous people in America, by teaching the Catholic faith.
"His relations with the natives tended to be benign. He liked the natives and found them to be very intelligent," she said.
"He also described them as 'natural Christians' because they had no other 'sect,' or false faith, and believed that they could easily become Christians if they had instruction."
"When I read his own writings and the documents of those who knew him, he seemed to be very much on the side of the Indians," Delaney added in a 2017 interview with CNA.
"They're blaming Columbus for the things he didn't do. It was mostly the people who came after, the settlers," she added.
The call to rename Columbus Catholic High School comes at a time when statues of many historical figures--including Columbus--have been taken down by protestors and rioters.
One statue of Columbus was removed from the grounds of the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul. The statue, which was created by an Italian-American and was intended as a show of support for the Italian immigrant population of Minnesota, was toppled on June 10.
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No charges have been filed against the people who brought down the statue.
Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, told CNA that the statue's fall is a sign of "negligent failure by public officials."
"We cannot allow persons or activists of politically favored groups to destroy property, public or private, simply because an object or building causes offense," Adkins said in a statement to CNA.
"The celebration by many in the community of the statue's lawless removal also shows the prevalence of fake history. Columbus is not a canonized saint, but he is not a villain, either. As described by Pope Leo XIII, his motives were exemplary, and it was an extraordinary achievement to connect the peoples of two hemispheres. To say Columbus was a perpetrator of genocide makes a mockery of the term," he added.
Adkins said that he had "made inquiries" for a transparent process on restoring the statue to its previous location.
"The statue should be restored to public view," he said.
Christine Rousselle is a former DC Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. Prior to working at CNA, she was the managing web editor of Townhall.com; she has a BA in political science from Providence College.