Jun 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Native American activists to protest Trump's Mount Rushmore visit

Mt Rushmore
Photo: Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Multiple groups led by Native American activists plan to protest President Trump’s July 3 Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, AP reports.

Why it matters: Activists believe the monument is a desecration of land stolen from Native Americans used to celebrate leaders who were hostile to Indigenous people.

  • The planned protest and the heightened attention on Mount Rushmore come during a national reckoning over the symbolism of monuments.
  • Some Native American activists believe the memorial is as reprehensible as the Confederate monuments being removed or torn down around the country.

What they're saying: Oglala Sioux president Julian Bear Runner told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that Trump failed to consult tribal leaders about his visit to the Black Hills, which the Oglala Sioux consider part of their Great Sioux Reservation and land that was never formally ceded to the United States.

  • Bear Runner said he also believes Mount Rushmore should be "removed."
  • "I don't believe it should be blown up, because it would cause more damage to the land," he said. "Removed but not blown up."
  • South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) tweeted last week that "The men on Mt. Rushmore helped make America the greatest country in history. They weren't perfect; nobody is. But we should learn from their example and work together to accomplish their dreams for our country."
  • Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives last week that would prohibit federal funds from being used to alter the faces of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, according to the Leader.

The big picture: Noem pushed for the return of an Independence Day fireworks display for Trump's visit. It will be the first pyrotechnical display at the site since 2009.

  • National fire experts said the return of the display "is ill-advised" because of fire danger.
  • The Black Hills National Forest has experienced abnormally dry conditions recently, which increases the risk of wildfires.
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