SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Another South Dakota tribal leader is calling for the removal of Mount Rushmore as President Donald Trump’s visit to the monument draws near.
Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said in a release that, “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 also criticized the upcoming July 3 visit from Trump, where he and South Dakote Gov. Kristi Noem have worked to bring back the monument’s annual fireworks show, which one fire expert has called “ill-advised” due to dry conditions.
“We are now being forced to witness the lashing of our land with pomp, arrogance and fire hoping our sacred lands survive,” Frazier said. “This brand on our flesh needs to be removed and I am willing to do it free of charge to the United States, by myself if I must.”
Oglala Sioux President Julian Bear Runner said last week he also believed the monument should be removed, calling it “a great sign of disrespect.”
The monument is carved in the Black Hills, land that was given to Native American tribes through the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 before miners seeking gold came to the area in 1874, demanding the protection of the U.S. Army. The Indian Appropriations Act of 1876 cut off all rations until the Lakota ended hostilities and ceded the Black Hills to the federal government.
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 the tribes were entitled to compensation in United State 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.
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The presidents carved into the stone themselves are not without controversy, either — George Washington and Thomas Jefferson held slaves, Abraham Lincoln approved the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Minnesota after a conflict with white settlers and Theodore Roosevelt is reported to have said “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are.”
“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.”
When contacted for a statement, Noem’s office responded with a link to an interview with Noem from the June 30 edition of “The Fox News Rundown Podcast.”
Asked about Bear Runner’s comments, Noem said “I think President Bear Runner is focusing on divisions. I’d like to focus on what makes us special. That all men are created equal. That’s the vision these four men fought to achieve. That’s what we should be continuing to fight for each and every day.”
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“He can choose to continue the same rhetoric that he always has,” Noem continued, “he’s an activist that is always using inflammatory language, or we can choose to focus on what we can learn from these individuals.”
Noem responded to theoretical calls to remove the monument last week, when conservative pundit Ben Shapiro tweeted “So, when is our woke historical revisionist priesthood going to insist on blowing up Mount Rushmore?” in the wake of Confederate memorials around the country being removed, either by law or by force.
Noem also replied to a now-deleted tweet from the Twitter account of the Democratic National Committee reading “Trump has disrespected Native communities time and again. He’s attempted to limit their voting rights and blocked critical pandemic relief. Now he’s holding a rally glorifying white supremacy at Mount Rushmore — a region once sacred to tribal communities.”
Noem said in her own tweet that “George Washington unified our nation. Thomas Jefferson wrote ‘All men are created equal.’ Abraham Lincoln ended slavery. Teddy Roosevelt was the first President to dine with a black man at the White House. It is shameful for @TheDemocrats to slander these great leaders.”
The governor’s office did not immediately reply when asked for a comment on the tribe’s calls to remove the monument.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Follow reporter Trevor J. MItchell on Twitter: @TJM613
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