April 18, 2010

Reactions to Natives at Mt. Rushmore

Tim Giago writes about what Gerard Baker accomplished as superintendent of Mt. Rushmore:

A man of great vision departs Mount Rushmore Memorial

By Tim GiagoVery quietly, but with dignity, Baker began introducing elements of the Native culture and traditions to the Memorial. He had several tipis constructed near the site and introduced Native speakers to talk to the tourists and visitors about the history of the Hills and of the region. Aside from having the opportunity to view the sculpted faces of the four presidents, the visitors to the Memorial soon flocked to hear the Native speakers and to look at the other Native art and artifacts brought to the Memorial by the Lakota and other tribes of the Northern Plains.

The Native speakers and exhibits soon became two of the most popular features at the Memorial much to the chagrin of many white residents of Rapid City and the surrounding region. These are our Hills and our presidents on display and the Indian things Baker is bringing to the Memorial do not belong there, was the biggest and probably the most ridiculous complaint.

When Baker was re-assigned to be the first ever Assistant Director for Indian Relations for the National Park Service, a post the NPS recognized as extremely important, the reaction by the local partisans was as expected. Wrote Scott Odenbach of Spearfish, S. D. in the local daily, "Native American cultural diversity rather than the Memorial's intended purpose: celebrating the lives and ideals of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln," seemed to be the main focus of Superintendent Baker. On Baker's new assignment Odenbach wrote, "Isn't this an example of the job description finally catching up with the job functions performed?"

Wrote James Reichert of Rapid City, "That's great! Now maybe we can keep Mount Rushmore safe from terrorist activities. And can we ask his replacement to move the tipi down the road to the Native American monument? It is inappropriate for a superintendent to impose his personal values upon a national monument."

We suppose Mr. Reichert was talking about moving the tipis to Crazy Horse Memorial, which is down the road and it is evident that he never once considered the proven fact that the Native exhibits are extremely popular with visitors to the Memorial and that the majority of Native Americans living in this region find the addition of these exhibits by Mr. Baker to be one of the best things that ever happened at the Memorial.

The local white folks should have known that Mount Rushmore was sculpted even while the ownership of the very land where it stands was involved in litigation between the United States and the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation. In other words, the United States allowed Gutzon Borglum to carve on the mountain while the land was a part of a lawsuit to determine ownership. About the illegal taking of the Black Hills by the United States, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, "A more ripe and rank case of dishonest dealings may never be found in our history."

After the whining dies down and after all is said and done, Gerard Baker, will be admired and respected by not only the Native Americans of this region, but also by thousands of non-Natives, as the single most important superintendent ever to grace that job position at the Memorial. He had the vision to see beyond the racial prejudice that has permeated this region for more than 100 years and to implement the Native culture and traditions into the daily activities at the Memorial in hopes of opening a new sensitivity of this regions diversity, but by also creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding between all races.
Why exactly would teabaggers conservatives people complain about additional displays that do nothing to harm the existing monument? How could they possibly object to having more information about a monument's origin and history?Racism, clear and simple, is behind the public vilification of a great man for having the vision and better yet, the authority to do something that should have been done 50 years ago.Comment:  If the whiners want to idolize Washington in the abstract, they can go to the Washington Monument or Mt. Vernon. Maybe there they'll learn how he earned his nickname for destroying Indian villages.

Same with the other presidents. The whiners may not realize it, but they're all guilty of anti-Indian actions.

Would you study a California mission or the Alamo or Ellis Island without noting its origin or history? I.e., the context that made its time and place significant? Probably not.

Same with Mt. Rushmore. It isn't a context-free monument like the 2001 monolith, floating serenely in the vacuum of space. It's located on stolen Indian land and that's part of its story.

For more on the subject, see No Tipis at Mt. Rushmore? and America's Shrine to Hypocrisy.


Anonymous said...

Its well agreed upon that the Black Hills region(primarily in Rapid City metropolitan area) is most the vitriolic anti-Indian environment in existent. There is saying that you just can't cure stupid. We have to accept the sad fact that these horrid racist KKKonservatives will always be narrow-minded simpletons.


Anonymous said...

In the story before this one: "Poll Shows Teabaggers Are Racist", the survey found only "1% are Black and 1% are Hispanic", so that would mean Natives are pretty much virtually non-existent in the rabid racist teaparty movement. Which is a very good thing indeed. Those Natives who do support them are the despisable Yeagleys of that crowd.


dmarks said...

"the rabid racist teaparty movement"

Such a movement does not exist. In the actual tea party rallies I've seen, I've easily seen the Natives there.

The claim that the teaparty movement is racist is nothing more than an attempt to claim that mere dissent is racist.

A great example of this comes from those who argue at length that calling Obama arrogant is racist. When you look at Google, you will see that a similar number of people calling George W. Bush racist also.

Anonymous said...

There is a video in the site--One People's Project, titled--"So..Who The Hell Is This?" Could it or could it not be true that the racist teaparty is racist?


Unknown said...

The real question is not whether it *could* be true but whether it *is* true.

Rob said...

My comments policy isn't an invitation to post comments on adjoining blog entries. Stick to the subject at hand or I'll delete the comments.

You can e-mail me if you have something to say and I'll decide if it's worth posting. This works out the same as the comments moderation policy in effect on many blogs.