The chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is calling for the removal of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The tribe leader has argued that the monument is carved in an area that is considered sacred land to Natives. The site may have been iconic for many White Americans, but for Natives, it has been extremely controversial.
“Nothing stands as a greater reminder to the Great Sioux Nation of a country that cannot keep a promise of treaty then the faces carved into our sacred land on what the United States calls Mount Rushmore. The United States of America wishes for all of us to be citizens and a family of their republic yet when they get bored of looking at those faces we are left looking at our molesters,” Chairman Harold Frazier said in a statement.
Frazier is one of many Native American leaders who have spoken out against the monument, as it has been a point of contention for Native tribes since it was built.
In June, Oglala Sioux President Julian Bear Runner called Mt. Rushmore a “great sign of disrespect.”
— CRSTChairman (@CRSTChairman) June 30, 2020
South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is said to have come up with the idea of carving historical figures into the mountains of the Black Hills of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region. The sculptor and tribal representatives settled on Mount Rushmore as the official site. Robinson wanted it to feature American West heroes, such as Lewis and Clark, their expedition guide Sacagawea, Oglala Lakota chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Oglala Lakota chief Crazy Horse. Unfortunately, the sculptor overseeing the project decided to go with the four presidents for a more mainstream appeal.
The Treaty of Fort Laramie, which was signed in 1868, had granted the Black Hills to the Lakota people, but the United States government took the area from the tribe after the Great Sioux War of 1876. In 1877, the US confiscated the Hills through the “Sell or Starve” Act, which cut off rations to the Sioux people if they did not surrender the land.
Members of the American Indian Movement led an occupation of the monument in 1971, naming it “Mount Crazy Horse.” In 2004, Gerard Baker was appointed as superintendent of the park, the first and so far only Native American in that role. Baker stated that he will open up more “avenues of interpretation”, and that the four presidents are “only one avenue and only one focus.” The Crazy Horse Memorial is being constructed elsewhere in the Black Hills to commemorate the Native American leader as a response to Mount Rushmore. Upon completion, it will be larger than Mount Rushmore and has the support of Lakota chiefs. The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation has rejected offers of federal funds, but it is still controversial Native American tribes.
US President Donald Trump is planning a big speech complete with fireworks at Mount Rushmore for this 4th of July, a decision that has raised concerns among environmentalists and sparked outrage among Native tribes.