Rosebud, S.D. – US House Representative Dusty Johnson presented a Challenger Coin and lapel pin to several Vietnam veterans in a special ceremony held here last week.
The presentations to Vietnam and Vietnam veterans are a cooperative effort between the Department of Defense, Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the US House of Representatives. On behalf of the Congressional office, the veterans received a Challenge Coin, which depicts the seal of South Dakota on one side. The seal of the US House is on the other side of the coin.
The Vietnam era was “a dark time in our country’s history,” stated Congressman Johnson. “This is an opportunity for America to step up and try to right one of those wrongs.”
“Indian Country and the Lakota have always celebrated their warriors,” continued Johnson. “America, as a whole, has not done as good a job. Today, we will be shaking the hands of these Vietnam and Vietnam Era veterans, thanking them for service.”
A grateful nation thanks and honors you – is the message engraved on the back of the Challenger Coin. “That is the message we did not provide properly when people returned home from Vietnam,” Johnson said.
Other local veterans who were honored included Anthony Castaway (Army), Francis White Bird (Army), Fremont Fallis (Army), Charles Mancini (Air Force), Bill Menard (Army), Jim Herman (Marines), Orlando Morrison (Army) and OJ Semans (Navy). Others recognized were Vaugh Matt Gordon (Army), Melford Leighton (Army), George Leneaugh (Army). Robert Kelly served in the Marine Corp but was not able to attend. His metal was accepted by Jasmine Henry.
It is estimated that 42,000 Native Americans served in the military during the Vietnam era. According to the Vietnam Memorial, there were 248 American Indians/Alaska Natives killed during the Vietnam war.
The Sicangu Lakota Warriors served as the Color Guard for the honoring. Eyapaha was Pat Bad Hand, Sr. Bad Hand also sang the Lakota Flag Song, a Vietnam veteran song and an honor song. Staff members from Senator Thune and Senator Rounds office also attended the event. The RST Veteran’s office provided lunch to all who attended.
The lapel pins were presented to recognize, thank and honor local Lakota military veterans who served during the Vietnam War. Eligible veterans included living US veterans who served on active duty in the US Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, are eligible to receive one lapel pin.
Lots of small Lakota children are being traumatized as you read this. Parents, guardians, grandparents or other caregivers are inflicting trauma on our children every minute of every day. Trauma isn’t just physical abuse. Mental, emotional and spiritual trauma is also child abuse.
There are lots of small children acting out the effects of trauma. For example, there are many children on our reservations that learn how to be a bully in their homes. People responsible for the care of children may often believe they only have to feed, clothe and provide shelter for the small children in their care. They haven’t a clue about how their personal behavior is traumatizing the children in their home.
For instance, there are a lot of Lakota people right now whom are heavily addicted to using large amounts of drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse regularly happens in front of the children in the home. There are also many children who witness extreme levels of violence in their homes. Yelling, physical assaults and adult dysfunction are just a handful of behaviors our children and teens are exposed to every single day. Consequently, these are behaviors which inflict trauma on our youth.
People who have to regularly cuss are also inflicting trauma. There are articles out there right now that encourage the use of cuss words by adults. When people cuss all the time or are unable to carry on a normal conversation without interjecting the F word between every other spoken word, it creates negativity in the home.
Also, when every other word out of your mouth is f***, you can be certain the children and teens in your care will follow the example you’re setting. This is very obvious in the number of small children who call adults “bitch” or other disrespectful names. It’s not funny when I hear a 4-year-old child say f*** you to an adult.
Right this very minute, there are small children home alone. They were not sent to school today. Many don’t have clean clothes. Others don’t have any food in the house because the SNAP card was sold for drugs or alcohol. These are traumatized children who will grow into adults and likely suffer a myriad of issues in their lives.
The trauma children suffer stays with them. It isn’t forgotten when they reach adulthood. They will likely inflict the same kind of trauma on their own children, perpetuating the vicious cycle we all witness on a regular basis. Our children deserve a healthy childhood in a home with caring, sober adults. Our children deserve to eat a good meal, have clean clothes to wear, as well as look forward to a safe home after school and on weekends. Parents are obligated to help their children grow into healthy adults.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) “are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse.
ACEs include, but are not limited to: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, intimate partner violence, mother treated violently, substance misuse within household, household mental illness, parental separation or divorce and an incarcerated household member.”
May 10 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. We often claim our children are sacred but most of us don’t walk the talk. It’s up to you to raise healthy children. Do your part to break the vicious cycle.
Lakota people didn’t always have the right to vote in this country. Women were granted the right to vote in 1920. Our grandparents were reluctantly granted citizenship in 1924, even though our ancestors were born on Turtle Island. Citizenship in the United States guarantees us the right to vote in the wasicu elections. Indigenous people of Turtle Island have the power to elect Joe Biden, but we can’t elect him if we don’t vote.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3, 2020 I will go to the election polling place in my community to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I will exercise my right to vote because I do not want the world to suffer another four years of the sitting President of the United States (POTUS).
Tribal leaders from both the Crow and Navajo Nations have gone public with their endorsement of the sitting POTUS. I have no idea why they would support him. Over the weekend, I was made aware of a tweet posted by David Flute, South Dakota Secretary of Tribal Relations and a citizen of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. The tweet read “It is fantastic to see my native brothers and sisters supporting President Trump, and knowing I’m not alone. #nativesforTrump”
Obviously, Secretary Flute isn’t working for the best interests of the South Dakota tribes he is supposedly representing. He is probably one of the few tribal citizens in this state blindly following the Republican lead. Consequently, Flute and his governor have done nothing for the tribes in this state.
The sitting POTUS has also done nothing for Indian Country; in fact, he continues to display his racist, misogynist behavior in public. He has criticized medical experts regarding the corona virus pandemic. He’s acted up in front of foreign dignitaries, while praising the actions of dictators. He has accused respected journalists of writing fake news.
In addition, the sitting POTUS has destroyed sacred sites on the traditional homelands of the Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona. The Tohono O’odham Nation does not recognize the imaginary line – known known to many as the “border.” Tribal citizens have crossed this “border” regularly to visit relatives and attend ceremony.
However, the 62 miles of “border” on the Tohono O’odham homeland is now the construction site of a wall to satisfy the sitting POTUS mission to keep relatives – whom are Indigenous to Turtle Island – from freely traveling to visit family and attend ceremony. Consequently, both The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, as well as The American Indian Religious Freedom Act were waived by the federal government to construct the wall.
The sitting POTUS also signed the Practical Reforms and Other Goals To Reinforce the Effectiveness of Self-Governance and Self-Determination for Indian Tribes Act (PROGRESS) into law earlier this month. In addition, several regional offices were established last summer to work on cold cases regarding missing and murdered Indigenous people by the sitting POTUS.
These actions might be considered as a step forward for Indian Country. Yet, many of us have to ask why the sitting POTUS didn’t take action when he first got into office. For many of us, the sitting POTUS’ actions are just too little, too late. I see it as an election ploy to garner more Native American votes. Also, the federal stimulus payment we received came from taxpayer money. It didn’t come from the sitting POTUS personal bank account – like he would want you to believe with the letter you got weeks after your stimulus payment was likely already spent.
Please don’t believe any of the laws signed by the great orange father. He doesn’t care about Indian Country. His forked tongue continues to lie.
And don’t listen to other tribal citizens who accuse you of being colonized or assimilated because you chose to exercise your right to vote. Ignore the clamor and go vote anyway.
Our children and elders deserve better. Go to the polls tomorrow and vote against the racist misogynist who doesn’t care about Indigenous people.
My late Unci was born in 1917. As a child, she attended the Rapid City Indian boarding school. She often spoke of the families who would camp along Rapid Creek, waiting for the school year to end so they could be with their children again.
This camp was called Osh Kosh Camp. Some people called it the Indian Camp and today the area is known as Founders Park. The camp consisted of not only family members waiting for their school children, but also included Lakota people who relocated to Rapid City looking for work.
Many Lakota relatives still live in Rapid City. In fact, many are without a house of their own and still camp along Rapid Creek. Last week, the Mniluzahan Creek Patrol set up the tipis near the fairgrounds as a solution to shelter relatives during the cold weather.
However, the city government and police department continue to work hard to keep Lakota people from camping along Rapid Creek. Police make regular sweeps along Rapid Creek, confiscating blankets, tents and other belongings of the Lakota people sleeping there. The city has also placed large boulders under bridges along Rapid Creek to stop relatives from seeking shelter.
The Mniluzahan Creek Patrol set up four tipis on October 16, 2020 to provide immediate, unconditional shelter to Lakota people camped along the creek. The mission of Mniluzahan Creek Patrol is to offer care and protection to our beloved unsheltered relatives through offerings of food, blankets and cold weather gear as well as protection from police and settler harassment and violence.
The tipis were erected along Rapid Creek within city limits. Of course, the police threw a fit and ordered the tipis removed. Several live streams were shared on social media from the site.
Consequently, a group of Lakota people who were singing ceremony songs in a tipi were arrested and taken to Pennington County Jail. A Lakota woman, who was seen being dragged out of the tipi by police, is reportedly facing about 30 criminal charges. The live streams showed a majority of the police force (along with a team dressed in riot gear hiding in a dark area), an ambulance and fire truck on the scene to make sure our people left the area.
The city government, led by former police chief Steve Allender, claims they have proposed solutions to get people off the street. Homeless shelters, detox and treatment centers are some of their proposed solutions. Yet, some of our relatives would rather camp along the creek.
The tipis were an immediate solution and were erected to make sure the relatives with nowhere to go had shelter for the first snow of the season. But according to the police, the area was in a dangerous flood plain. We are currently experiencing a drought and it would likely take more than one rainstorm for the creek to overflow its banks. Chief Crow Dog said it best when he told the police chief “it’s not going to flood tonight.”
This incident is another example of government paternalism. That is, when our Lakota leadership comes up with a quick solution to deal with an issue at hand, it’s never good enough for most wasicu – including the mayor and his cops.
It’s the same old story – wasicu solutions are better than ours, even though the people who chose to stay along the creek are our relatives. Every level of wasicu government has consistently tried to force their policy down our throats. The wasicu still believe their way is better than our way. They work hard to take our freedom of choice away.
Perhaps they are just čanzeka over the loss of revenue the city is suffering because of the cancellation of the Black Hills Powwow (and likely December’s Lakota Nation Invitational). These events always brought big bucks to city businesses.
Also, we are affected by intergenerational trauma passed down from our ancestors. It’s up to each one of us to heal the painful cellular memory we are born with. We carry the trauma of our ancestors whom the wasicu tried to exterminate.
Consequently, the wasicu have their own form of historical or intergenerational trauma. The policy of their ancestors was to kill us all. Yet, we are still here.
The plan to kill off our ancestors failed miserably, so many wasicu work hard to ensure we never get ahead – especially in Rapid City, SD. The wasicu shame and guilt they hold in their cellular memory is their historical trauma. The wasicu who haven’t worked on healing their historical trauma feel čanzeka when they see a Lakota relative camped along Rapid Creek.
Just think, if the city officials would give even a few acres of #LandBack along Rapid Creek, unhoused Lakota relatives could build tiny houses or live in tipis like our ancestors did.
Kudos to everyone who had a hand in setting up the tipi camp on October 18, 2020 on tribal land outside of city limits away from the čanzeka city officials and their police.
We are all familiar with the saying “Women are Sacred.” The women of our tribe are the backbone of our society. Lakota women have always cared for our family and home. Our tribe wouldn’t exist if not for our women.
In modern Lakota society, some women work full-time jobs to be self-sufficient. Many are the sole financial providers of their household. As mothers and grandmothers, we work to feed our children and maintain a home for our family. Again, our tribe would not exist today if not for the women.
In our quest to provide a home with food and basic necessities for our family, many Lakota women also choose to pursue a college education. Lots of working women have registered for a full-time schedule of classes these last couple of weeks. These same women stay up late to study and earn a 4.0 GPA. They also don’t miss a day of work at their job.
Tribal officials continue to advise our young people to go to college because the tribe wants to hire educated people to make life better on our homelands. This isn’t true.
For example, a recent situation where an educated tribal citizen challenged a non-tribal citizen for a job would have been a done deal if the tribes’ personnel manual was followed. Instead, there are still tribal council representatives trying to manipulate the hiring process to the non-tribal citizen’s advantage.
Consequently, I’m not sure why tribal council representatives encourage our young high school graduates to go to college. It’s a fallacy to believe a college degree will help a qualified tribal citizen be hired for a job. And when you are a woman, there is no end to the abuse and discrimination we must suffer when we want to work for our tribe.
We’ve been told by elders the Lakota are a matriarchial society. When tribal citizens question whether or not we are a matriarchial society, they must remember Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman) who brought the Lakota people the Cannunpa. She provided the foundation of our spiritual way of life.
In today’s society, our women suffer much abuse. The concept of women as sacred is cast aside by colonized men and women. Physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual abuse are inflicted on the majority of our women and girls. The abuse we suffer is inflicted by both men and women.
Our women also suffer abuse in the tribal work place. The folks in charge of some tribal programs work to intimidate female employees to get their way. In addition, elected representatives will work to manipulate their colleagues for situations to be voted their way. The rights of women are violated when intimidation and manipulation are involved.
The tendency for our elected men and women to push educated Lakota women aside when it comes to tribal employment is alarming. It’s outright discrimination when qualified women are subjected to hiring processes not required of male applicants for tribal jobs.
In addition, tribal voters who watch the live broadcasts of the council meetings have witnessed the reps in attendance treating female council reps badly. Some of us believe reps are using their positions to campaign during public meetings.
As Lakota women, we must stand up for our rights as tribal citizens. We must also support our women representatives. We can’t allow the double standard we’ve seen in tribal government to continue. Our people need to remember our Lakota women are the backbone of society.
Thursday, August 27, 2020 is General Election Day. Voters must ask what the incumbents have done to improve the community during these past three years. Think of what has improved in your community and please vote accordingly.
It’s Primary Election week on the Rosebud. Voters will go to the polls tomorrow Thursday, August 6, 2020 (postponed from July 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) to choose the top two candidates running for ten tribal council representative positions. The candidates we vote into these ten vacant positions during the General Election later this month will represent us for the next three years. Please choose carefully.
The majority of our Lakota Oyate do not have faith in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 – the government system the Rosebud Sioux Tribe operates under. Unfortunately, it’s the only government we have. Until our young people rise up and re-write the constitution we are governed by, nothing will change.
A very important prerequisite for running for any office in tribal government should be to attend at least one year of tribal council meetings to learn how the process works. Tribal citizens who attend council meetings to listen are the people who know how our governing body operates. It’s important for our tribal citizens to understand how the council operates.
Tribal citizens often don’t realize we’re all put in great danger whenever there is a tribal council meeting.
The tribal council is the governing body of our reservation. They hold power over all of our tribal programs. Their meetings often get emotionally charged and they approve legislation which hurts people. Some of them say they are voting the wishes of the people but there are times when the decisions tribal council approves are questionable or downright wrong.
Consequently, there are council representatives who’ve served more than one term and are quite knowledgeable about how the system works. There have been instances when a tribal council representative has manipulated the system to get his or her way. This corruption negatively affects hiring process of tribal directors or how resources are distributed to the people. Thus, some tribal council representatives are very dangerous.
Some of the incumbents running for office are only thinking of themselves or their family. They need your vote so they can remain in the position they are in. They are serving in a position which pays a decent salary. They also have unlimited access to pay advances, tribal loans, free travel and a free smartphone.
Some of the candidates have personal vendettas against tribal citizens. Other candidates need to be re-elected so they can help tribal programs maintain the status quo – aka the “good ole boy” system. They need to get back into office to carry out those agendas.
There are candidates who want very badly for certain tribal directors or employees to be fired. This isn’t right. But that is the history of tribal politics – you lose your job because a tribal official (or someone close to a tribal official) decides they don’t like you. And that person who doesn’t like you is usually related to or married to or buddy-buddy with the tribal council member or tribal president who can fire you from your job. Consequently, it is very unethical to use your influence as a tribal council member to micromanage and attempt to extend your legislative duties to those which belong to the personnel manager and/or grievance process.
Earlier this week, I heard a council representative bring up the attendance problems of employees working in a tribal organization. I thought it was hypocritical for the council to be discussing attendance at a tribal program job when nearly half of them haven’t attended a tribal council meeting in months.
Vote for candidates who will commit to attending every meeting they are required to be at. There were many times over the past three years when the tribal council could not reach a quorum to even have a meeting. Most of the time, they barely get eleven members to show up at 10am on council meeting day.
Our children deserve better; they need you to vote for ethical candidates.
ROSEBUD RESERVATION – A community lockdown due to positive COVID-19 cases has resulted in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Election Board postponing the Primary Election.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council discussed the recommendation of the COVID-19 Task Force and law enforcement to lock down Black Pipe Community earlier this week at a regular meeting. The lockdown began at 6pm on Tuesday, July 21, 2020 and will stay in effect through Friday, July 23, 2020 at 6am. The action was taken due to the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Black Pipe Community. No one is allowed to leave or pass through the community, which is located on highway 63.
Due to the lockdown of Black Pipe Community, the RST Election Board announced the postponement of the Primary Election from July 23, 2020 to August 6, 2020. The decision to postpone the Primary Election was made in a meeting of the Election Board, as well as tribal attorneys, on July 21, 2020.
The following statement was released by the Election Board:
“The RST Election Board has been faced with a very tough decision. First and foremost, our biggest concern is the health and safety of our tribal members of all ages. We would like to send thoughts and prayers to all who have been affected by the current COVID-19 Pandemic. Therefore, the RST Election Board, in a duly called special meeting, has moved to postpone the Primary Election to Thursday, August 6, 2020.
“We hope that all tribal members open your hearts and minds to our decision and remember that this is for the health and safety of our tribal nation. Thank you for your understanding. Please continue to adhere to the social distancing procedures. Stay healthy and stay safe. Love and prayers to all. NOTE: This postponement does not affect the General Election Timeline of August 27, 2020.”
For more information please call the Election Office at 605-747-3187.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is preparing for elections. The Primary Election on Thursday, July 23, 2020 will determine the top two candidates for ten vacant tribal council seats. So, next week tribal citizens will cast their vote to pick which candidates will appear on the General Election ballot in August.
The tribal council representatives for the communities of Black Pipe, Butte Creek, Grass Mountain, Ideal, Milks Camp, Okreek, Parmelee, Soldier Creek, Spring Creek and Two Strike will be determined by all tribal voters. Tribal elections shouldn’t be a popularity contest. Voters must consider the qualifications, ethics and the ability of candidates to represent the entire tribe.
Tribal council candidates must be experts of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Constitution and Bylaws. Candidates must also be familiar with how legislation is introduced and voted on during tribal council meetings. Tribal council representatives are paid a decent salary to conduct the tribes’ business – whether they attend community, committee or council meetings or not.
Attendance at tribal committee and council meetings is not required for your representatives to be paid; they draw a salary regardless. They also draw their salary when they abstain from voting an issue on the floor up or down. We elect people we believe will show up at all the meetings (community, committee and council) so they can make decisions for all of us.
However, your incumbent council representatives – who speak for all the people while in session at council meetings – from Black Pipe, Corn Creek, Milks Camp, Parmelee, Rosebud and Swift Bear refused to vote on this particular issue. In addition, the council representatives from Grass Mountain, He Dog, Horse Creek, Ring Thunder, Soldier Creek and Two Strike were absent from this meeting.
This particular issue has been in the forefront for many tribal citizens during the last several months. So, it wasn’t like the council representatives who chose not to vote were unaware of the issue. In fact, the same issue was the focus of a special tribal council meeting held last month.
Electing tribal council representatives, as well as constitutional officers, should be a serious topic of discussion in your Tiospaye. Please discuss the candidates with your relatives who will vote on July 23. Better yet, visit all the candidates running for tribal council from your community.
Some of the topics you can bring up with the tribal council candidates is their knowledge of the RST Constitution, ordinances, resolutions and other documents the governing body deals with. Another topic for discussion is employment practices.
However, the tribal citizen has not been allowed to take the director position because the tribal council chose to make this employment issue political. So, the non-member is still at work and the qualified tribal citizen is still waiting for the issue to be resolved.
As tribal citizens living on the Rosebud, it is in our hands to elect ethical council representatives to vote on legislation presented to them. Tribal council representatives are not supposed to be involved in personnel challenges but they made the decision to micromanage this particular tribal directorship.
Elect candidates who will attend all their required meetings to cast ethical votes on every motion. What have the incumbents done for you?
Cante Hunkesni Win is an award-winning Journalist.
Our Lakota origin story recounts our emergence from Wind Cave in the Black Hills. No other people on Earth can say they were born from Wind Cave.
Our ancestors negotiated treaties with the federal government in good faith. The Black Hills were set aside for the Oceti Sakowin because of the treaties. Yet, the discovery of gold saw the treaties signed by the federal government officials horribly violated.
Our world is dealing with a dangerous pandemic. The corona virus (COVID-19) continues to infect people all over this country, this state and our tribal lands. Our tribes had to create new laws to protect citizens from uncontrolled outbreaks of COVID-19.
Yet, Governor Kristi Noem disregarded safely and hosted President Donald Trump (POTUS) to watch Chinese-made fireworks explode. Also, news outlets reported that a member of the POTUS crew test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in South Dakota last week. Despite the positive case in the POTUS crew, there was no social distancing displayed by the governor or any of the wasicu in the group. Most attendees also did not wear face masks.
I saw many relatives posting on social media about the POTUS speech at Mount Rushmore. I don’t watch any of the news networks on television anymore. And I specifically won’t watch any broadcasts of the POTUS talking because I refuse to suffer his evil voice. Hearing him verbalize his hateful words has the same effect as the screech of someone dragging their fingernails slowly down a chalkboard. Trump’s voice is extremely irritating to many people.
While you were all watching Noem and Trump ham it up in front of the network cameras, I watched several live feeds shared by Indigenous people and allies providing coverage of the protest against the POTUS visit to the HeSapa. The courage displayed by our long-gone ancestors was definitely brought into the present by Lakota treaty protectors. The highway was shut down for several hours by strong treaty protectors holding down the front line in the face of fully-armed police wearing riot gear.
The treaty protectors stood fearless on an asphalt highway for several hours in the July heat against a mob of National Guard police sent to push them off the road in our sacred Black Hills. They sacrificed their safety by putting themselves in harms way. A major highlight was the livestream depicting an Indigenous Sister bravely counting coup on the police line with an Oglala Lakota Nation flag.
Many Lakota people and their allies suffered both the verbal and physical abuse of white supremacists on July 3 in our sacred HeSapa. Several others sacrificed their freedom by being arrested and taken to Pennington County Jail.
Most of those arrested were released over the weekend. Nick Tilsen – NDN Collective President/CEO and an organizer of the protest – was still being held in Pennington County Jail on Monday. Tilsen faces several charges as a political prisoner for his leadership as a treaty protector.
Wopila Nick! You showed us how to defend the sacred HeSapa for the coming generations. We appreciate your sacrifice!
A little historical perspective to keep in mind about Mount Rushmore, site of Donald Trump’s controversial Independence Day celebration this weekend:
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in the sacred Lakota He Sápa (Black Hills), was created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum nearly 80 years ago.
He had previously been hired by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to carve out of Stone Mountain, Georgia, a “shrine to the South” – an enormous sculpture commemorating military icons of the Confederacy, including generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. He became involved in Ku Klux Klan politics, joining them for a torch-light ceremony atop Stone Mountain in 1915. It is notable that for the next 50 years, until 1965, an annual Labor Day KKK cross-burning ceremony was celebrated up on Stone Mountain.
Like Mount Rushmore, Stone Mountain, prior to European occupation and seizure of the property, had been a sacred Native American site. In the case of Stone Mountain, when Europeans first learned of the place in 1567, it was inhabited and venerated by the Creek and, to a lesser extent, Cherokee peoples.
Mrs. C. Helen Plane, a charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy who had been instrumental in advancing the Stone Mountain project, welcomed Borglum at the Atlanta train station and took him to the mountain for an exploratory visit, introucing the sculptor to the owner of the property, Sam Venable, an active member of th KKK. After the release of D. W. Griffith’s Klan-glorifying “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915, the revived KKK was riding high. Despite Borglum’s Klan connections, Mrs. Plane “would not shake his hand – he was, after all, a Yankee”. In a letter to Borglum, she had written about the proposed monument: “I feel it is due to the Klan, which saved us from Negro dominations and carpetbag rule, that it be immortalized on Stone Mountain. Why not represent a small group of them in their nightly uniform approaching in the distance?” Borglum, impressed by the vast granite face that would be his enormous canvas, gladly accepted the offer to create the Confederate monument. But things gradually turned sour between Borglum and his employers.
Borglum was dismissed from the Stone Mountain project in 1925, after it had stalled owing to financial confilcts with his employers and infighting within the Ku Klux Klan itself, the group funding a significant part of the project. An additional reason for Borglum’s dismissal was that he had accepted an offer to carve the heads of U.S. presidents in South Dakota – in particular of the Confederate South’s sworn enemy President Abraham Lincoln.
After many stops and starts, begining with the hiatus during World War II and then political complications following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling and the birth of the Civil Rights Movement, the work of a series of sculptors that took on the job after Borglum’s firing culminated in Stone Mountain Park, “as a memorial to the Confederacy”, which was officially opened to the public on 14 April, 1965 – exactly 100 years to the day after Lincoln’s assassination.
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 murder 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, the 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.”
From Perceval Press we wish all citizens a happy and peaceful Fourth of July weekend, and ask that you bear in mind the words of Oglala Lakota leader and holy man Heȟáka Sápa (Black Elk) after his visit to New York in 1866, following the devastating Civil War:
“I did not see anything to help my people. I could see that the Wasichus [white man] did not care for each other the way our people did before the nation’s hoop was broken. They would take everything from each other if they could, and so there were some who had more of everything than they could use, while crowds of people had nothing at all and maybe were starving. This could not be better than the old ways of my people.”
And, after meditating in the Black Hills:
“And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.” Heȟáka Sápa