Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The two faces of Mount Rushmore

  • Print
Mount Rushmore National Memorial

DIRK LAMMERS / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Many Winnipeg tourists head down to South Dakota to marvel at Mount Rushmore. The faces of four of the most beloved American presidents carved into the side of a mountain is quite a sight to see.

As a child, I recall the messages of freedom and independence that I read about in Dennis the Menace comic books and saw on the Wonderful World of Walt Disney TV shows that drove me to Mount Rushmore, and I wasn't disappointed. There is a certain highway you take where the glaring white visages of those four highly revered leaders blasts into view and it is breathtaking, just as it is from the viewing platform set up in front of this incredible monument.

But if you are seeing the same thing through the eyes of a Native American, you get quite a different perspective.

Mount Rushmore sits in the centre of the Black Hills -- a sacred site to the Sioux nation which was ceded to them by the Treaty of Laramie in 1868, never to be trod upon by the white man.

Until they found gold in them thar hills, that is.

Imagine gazing upon the sacred ground of your ancestors knowing it was stolen to make room for saloons and dance halls and gambling joints the gold rush created in towns such as Deadwood, S.D. Then imagine staring at the images of four of the most dedicated desecrators of your nation's culture and history.

Each of those four great American presidents whose image is carved into the sacred Black Hills has cut through the human rights of Native Americans like a knife.

George Washington? He ordered farms owned by Indians along the Mohawk River to be burned to the ground and gave bounties to any settler who could prove they killed an Indian by bringing in their "redskin."

Thomas Jefferson did the same and is partly famous for saying "Hunt them down life a wolf" to encourage Indian hunters.

Teddy Roosevelt is praised as a conservationist for setting 52 million acres of land aside for the creation of national parks. Where did the land come from? It was taken away from Indian reservations.

And Abraham Lincoln? Here is perhaps the cruelest cut of all.

Lincoln is widely recognized as the greatest American president of all time for freeing the slaves. But on the very day he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln signed an order for the biggest mass execution in American history; the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minn.

The history is unclear except for one fact; the death of the 38 Dakota men. Some say a cow wandered on to recognized Indian territory and some starving Indians butchered it to provide food for their families. A local rancher demanded justice, despite the fact the cow had no brand so 500 Indians gathered up 40 of their skinny cattle to offer to the rancher.

He refused that offer. He wanted justice.

So 500 Dakota pleaded guilty to the charge of stealing that cow and 500 Dakota were indicted.

To show "mercy," Lincoln reduced the number of men who were declared guilty to 38.

And 38 Dakota men were lined up in a row and hung on the gallows.

Others, who refer to this tragic event as the "Incident at Ulm," claim two Dakota warriors, who had been embarrassed by being shooed away with a broom by a farmer's wife after stealing some eggs and then took revenge by killing the farmer, his wife and the local postmaster, caused the "incident."

The indisputable fact is 38 Dakota men were sentenced to death on the same day Lincoln signed another piece of paper that freed the slaves. Of note locally, Lincoln was also was creating a Sioux presence here in Manitoba as Dakota fleeing the persecution ended up in the southwest part of this province.

I doubt many of us think of all this when we visit Mount Rushmore. The sculpture is magnificent, its sheer size, awesome.

But to a descendent of America's First Nations, who negotiated sacred treaties so the Black Hills would always remain a place of worship and prayer, it is not only sacrilegious to see this land overrun by gold miners and good-timers who desecrated all that your nation stands for, it can only be heartbreaking to see the images of your oppressors scarring the side of your sacred hills.

Mount Rushmore pays tribute to these men who stood for freedom, but only for some it seems.

It all depends on how you look at it.

 

Don Marks is editor of Grassroots News.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2013 A11

History

Updated on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 7:12 AM CDT: Replaces photo

2:15 PM: Fixes word.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Bowman pledges to find efficiencies at City Hall

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 110621 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 -  Doug Chorney, president Keystone Agricultural Producers flight over South Western Manitoba to check on the condition of farming fields. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
my2011poy

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Are you worried Ebola might make its way to Canada?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google