A day before President Donald Trump attends a Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore, Native American advocates raised their voices in protest of the controversial landmark that was built on sacred land by an artist with ties to the KKK.
Ahead of President Donald Trump’s Fourth of July visit to Mount Rushmore, at least two tribal leaders are calling for the removal of the historic landmark. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier and Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner demand the removal of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota because they say it was built on sacred land that belongs to them and because of the racist artist that created it. Other tribal members and Native American advocates are planning to protest a day before Trump arrives.
“Nothing stands as a greater reminder to the Great Sioux Nation of a country that cannot keep a promise or treaty than the faces carved into our sacred land on what the United States calls Mount Rushmore,” Frazier said in a released statement.
Related: Trump’s Wall Construction Will Continue, SCOTUS Tells Environmental Groups Fighting to Preserve Species and Land
Frazier cites the Native American tribes owned the Black Hills land, which is where Mount Rushmore was built, through the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. However, the U.S. government never honored the treaty and took back the land in 1876.
The matter of the treaty was addressed in 2018 when Chief John Spotted Tail (Sicangu Lakota, a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe), great-great-grandson of Spotted Tail, one of the treaty’s original signers, said, “It is my wish that the United States would honor this treaty.”
According to USA Today, “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. The following year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 8-1 that the federal government had violated the Fifth Amendment and that the tribes were entitled to compensation in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians. The tribes declined the compensation because it would legally end their demand for the Black Hills to be returned to them.”
“Visitors look upon the faces of those presidents and extol the virtues that they believe make America the country it is today,” Frazier said. “Lakota see the faces of the men who lied, cheated, and murdered innocent people whose only crime was living on the land they wanted to steal.”
Related: Trump’s Failure to Reopen Safely Could Hurt Him on the Last Issue Voters Trust Him With: The Economy
As many as 7,500 spectators will be at Trump’s Fourth of July celebration and can expect to see a firework show for the first time in years. The National Parks had previously banned fireworks at Mount Rushmore because of wildfire concerns and water pollution, but Trump is making it happen despite outcry from tribal leaders and environmentalists. There’s also the matter of social distancing amid a pandemic. South Dakota currently has almost 7,000 cases of COVID-19.
“Yeah, the carving itself is rock, and right below the carving is a rock that was carved off in order to make the sculpture,” Bill Gabbert, editor of Wildfire Today, told NPR. “But beyond that, there’s a Ponderosa pine forest. The Black Hills generally is a tinder box this time of year, and right now, they’re in a drought.”
In 1915, sculptor Gutzon Borglum was commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to create a landmark that would be a monument to the Confederacy on a Stone Mountain outside Atlanta. Borglum also had ties to the Ku Klux Klan. The Washington Post reports that the Klan also funded the project.