Stone Mountain now:
© Perceval Press.
After the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, many people across the country began to call for the removal of Confederate monuments. Georgia State Representative and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called for the erasure, by sandblasting, of Stone Mountain's carving. She called it "a blight upon our state". As we know, the demand for Confederate monument removals continues to grow today as a result of the assasination of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests across the nation and around the world.
Although numerous tribal groups have insisted that President Trump cancel his Mount Rushmore 4th of July celebration, he will, of course, go ahead as planned, in yet another insensitive effort to sow division in the country and gratify extremist elements of his white nationalist base. Native American groups have long tried to get the monument of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt removed from the sacred Black Hills of the Oglala Lakota people. Recently, president of the Oglala tribe, Julian Bear Runner, has ordered Trump to cancel today's event. As he said to The Guardian newspaper, ""The lands on which that mountain is carved and the lands he's about to visit belong to the Great Sioux nation under a treaty signed in 1851 and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, and I have to tell him he doesn't have permission from its original sovereign owners to enter the territory at this time".
It is fitting that Borglum, a native Idahoan with white supremacist leanings who claimed to be worried about what he termed "mongrel hordes" overrunning the "Nordic" purity of the West, should have been tasked to create the gigantic affront to the Oglala Lakota people and to all indigenous peoples of the U.S. About Native Americans he once said "I would not trust an Indian, off-hand, 9 out of 10, where I would not trust a white man 1 out of 10". That is the legacy that Trump is celebrating today, apart from his egomaniacal desire to be seen as a worthy heir to and member in good standing of the collection of giant heads of previous renowned Christian presidents of the United States of America, a country supposedly created as "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all". As Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of the NDN Collective, a national organization dedicated to building Indigenous power recently said, Trump is "pushing these narratives of white supremacy, and he's digging in deeper and deeper, using these symbols of grave injustice, and couching them as part of the great American story". Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, addressed native tribal views on Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills during his recent interview by Amy Goodman on "Democracy Now":
"And so, the act of, one, stealing our land, and then carving the faces of four white men, who were colonizers, who committed genocide against Indigenous people, is an egregious act of violence. And then, furthermore, for it to be celebrated as the shrine of democracy, you know, some people just don't know — people talk about Abraham Lincoln as being one of the better presidents in the history of the country. Well, you know, people don't realize that, on one hand, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and then he also ordered the largest mass hanging in the history of the United States, when he ordered the execution of 38 Dakota people after the uprising in Dakota territory in southern Minnesota.
These parts of our history are the truth and the reality. This is an act of violence and aggression against us, and it's also pushing this false narrative about American democracy, when we actually really should be uplifting the truths of what happened throughout history and how those truths are directly connected to the disparities that exist today in society amongst Indigenous people."