South Dakota-"Great Faces, Great Places"
This was my first visit to South Dakota.
I’m the type of person who makes it a priority to listen to and honor everyone, ̶e̶v̶e̶n̶ especially when I have a different opinion or belief.
I do my best to hear and understand all the varied opinions, beliefs and passions around Mt. Rushmore.
I’ll share a snippet of what is running through my mind today.
To the original residents of the Black Hills region, the Lakota Sioux, Mount Rushmore represents a desecration of lands considered sacred.
Even after the Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed in 1868, promising the Sioux “undisturbed use and occupation” of territory including the Black Hills, in what is now South Dakota, the U.S. government began forcing the Sioux to relinquish their claims on the Black Hills after gold was discovered.
Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, leaders of the Sioux on the Great Plains, strongly resisted the mid-19th-century efforts of the U.S. government to confine their people to Indian Reservations.
In 1875, in South Dakota’s Black Hills, the U.S. Army ignored previous treaty agreements and invaded the region.
Even though the Battle of the Little Bighorn was a Native American victory, after that, the U.S. government increased its efforts to subdue the tribes. Within five years, almost all of the Sioux and Cheyenne were confined to reservations.
I have deep respect for this sacred land and the Sioux who mourn the loss.
These Black Hills, Paha Sapa in Lakota, are magnificent, the grandeur is impressive. I feel the vibration here. There is pride and pleasure as well as pain.
Charles Rushmore traveled to the Black Hills in 1885 to inspect mining claims in the region. When Rushmore asked a local man the name of a nearby mountain, he reportedly replied that it never had a name before, but from now on would be known as Rushmore Peak (later Rushmore Mountain or Mount Rushmore).
The intention was to attract tourism. Doane Robinson came up with the idea to sculpt “the Needles” (several giant natural granite pillars) into the shape of historic figures of the West. One of his suggestions was Red Cloud, the Sioux chief.
Later, once Borglum (he’s a story) came on the scene, it was decided that the sculpture would depict George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as that would give it national, and not just local, significance. Later, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt were added.
The four presidents were chosen to represent the birth, growth, development, and preservation of the United States.
George Washington was chosen to symbolize the birth of the United States.
Thomas Jefferson was chosen to symbolize the growth of the United States. He was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd president. Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, doubling the size of the United States.
Abraham Lincoln was chosen to symbolize the preservation of the United States. The 16th president, he held a strong conviction against slavery and preserved the union during serious times.
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President. He was chosen to symbolize the development of the United States.
Each face is over 60 feet tall, and the entire carving covers almost 1,300 acres.
In 1937, a bill was introduced in Congress to add the head of Susan B. Anthony, but it didn’t go anywhere.
If they were going to blast away 450,000 tons of stone and carve some notable faces, would I have liked to see a woman’s face, some diversity?
I look to the past for information, taking note of what was, celebrating the evolution, knowing there’s more, understanding that individual and collective consciousness was not where we are today and today won’t be where we are tomorrow. I am thankful that as we move forward it is with wisdom.
I embrace our future with eyes that see what may not be visible to the naked eye and ears that hear what is not audible.
With awareness to create a more conscious future, I am grateful to experience this place, Mt Rushmore, for all that it is and all that it is not.
Onward ever, backward never.