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South Dakota Tribal Leader On Mt. Rushmore: Remove It, But Don’t Blow It Up, Less Environmental Damage That Way
Mount Rushmore National Memorial on April 23, 2020, in Keystone, South Dakota.
Photo by Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

On Tuesday, South Dakota GOP governor Kristi Noem reacted to speculation that anyone might try to get rid of Mt. Rushmore by tweeting succinctly, “Not on my watch.”

But on Thursday, USA Today quoted that a tribal leader of the Sioux nation saying that although Mt. Rushmore should not be blown up, it should be removed.

Oglala Sioux President Julian Bear Runner, who expressed his disapproval of President Trump’s visit next week to the Black Hills of South Dakota, stated of Mt. Rushmore, “I don’t believe it should be blown up, because it would cause more damage to the land,” but when the idea was apparently suggested other methods with less environmental damage could be utilized, he added, “I agree. Removed but not blown up.” He asserted that the federal government did not seek approval of Sioux leaders was built,” saying, “To me, it’s a great sign of disrespect,” he said.

“Mount Rushmore carries special significance for Great Plains Indians: It depicts the faces of four white American leaders who presided over the founding and expansion of European descended ancestors throughout the United States,” USA Today reported, noting, “The U.S. Court of Claims found in 1979 that the Sioux Nation was entitled to $17.1 million in compensation due to the federal government’s seizure of the Black Hills.”

Nick Tilsen from the Oglala Lakota tribe and the president of an organization called NDN Collective said, “Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy, of structural racism that’s still alive and well in society today. It’s an injustice to actively steal Indigenous people’s land then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide.”

Noem told Fox News, “These men have flaws, obviously every leader has flaws, but we’re missing the opportunity we have in this discussion to talk about the virtues and what they brought to this country, and the fact that this is the foundation that we’re built on and the heritage we should be carrying forward.”

Mount Rushmore’s design was created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, and finished in 1941. The 60-foot tall heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt were meant to symbolize America’s birth, growth, development, and preservation.

Vis-a-vis Trump’s visit: “Several groups led by Native American activists are planning protests for Trump’s July 3 visit, part of Trump’s ‘comeback’ campaign for a nation reeling from sickness, unemployment and, recently, social unrest. The event is slated to include fighter jets thundering over the 79-year-old stone monument in South Dakota’s Black Hills and the first fireworks display at the site since 2009,” NBC News reported.

Democrat Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, the chair of the State-Tribal Relations Committee and a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, expressed his own feelings about Trump’s visit, asserting, “I’m not really happy that he’s coming to pollute our Black Hills.”

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