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Historical Pain Behind Mount Rushmore Renewed in 2020

The land on which Mount Rushmore is located was taken from the Lakota Sioux by the U.S. government in the 1800s. (Adobe Stock)
The land on which Mount Rushmore is located was taken from the Lakota Sioux by the U.S. government in the 1800s. (Adobe Stock)
June 29, 2020

KEYSTONE, S.D. -- President Donald Trump plans to hold a rally at Mount Rushmore later this week for Independence Day.

But a number of Native American tribes say they'll protest, given the complex history behind some of the monument's figures.

Statues and monuments deemed historically insensitive have been toppled across the country in the renewed racial justice movement.

Tribal leaders in South Dakota say they've been speaking out about Mount Rushmore for decades, because to them, it represents the land that was stolen from them and the genocide committed against their people.

Chase Iron Eyes, spokesman for the Oglala Sioux, says his tribe's longstanding pain coincides with the current national reckoning.

"When we have these monuments and the United States wants to shove those identities into our mainframes, of course, natural human beings are going to think for themselves," he states.

One of the main points of contention is that Mount Rushmore sits on the Black Hills, considered sacred land that was seized despite tribal treaties with the U.S. government.

The president's visit is also raising concerns among wildfire experts because of planned fireworks, which could spark fires due to dry weather.

While Native Americans are upset over the site being used as a backdrop for the president, Iron Eyes says he doesn't care which political party holds power -- so long as the government and the white population make a serious attempt to make amends with Indigenous people.

"We've been living side-by-side with them, intermarrying with them," Iron Eyes states. "They own half of our reservations. They own most of the businesses around here. We're already living in peace around here, but it's a peace with a boot on our neck."

Some activists say the land on which Mount Rushmore sits should be returned to the tribes, while others say the monument should be demolished. There also are calls to return the revenue it has produced.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - SD