A 'Bush Tale' In The Black Hills
A park official wants to show the Indian perception of Mount Rushmore Memorial Park in South Dakota, but whose perception is it? The Bush administration’s version of what Native Americans should believe about Mt. Rushmore and the four huge granite faces of American presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt or the Native American version that the faces are a symbol of treaties broken by the federal government.
The man who will tell the story is Mt. Rushmore Park superintendent Gerard Baker, himself, an American Indian who completes his first year on the job at the end of this month.
“What I want to do,” Baker said, “is to educate America, including Indian people, children, mainly, as to how the Indian people lived before the coming of the white man.”
Baker is a member of the Mandan/Hidatsa tribes and acknowledges he doesn’t like controversy but deals with it because of his desire to educate people and challenge them to learn more about different cultures.
One of the memorial’s most ardent opponents is Charmaine White Face who heads Defenders of the Black Hills. She said, “Many of us consider this to be our treaty territory. Mount Rushmore is an insult because the Black Hills are sacred,”
Although White Face complimented Baker for his educational philosophy she has conflicting emotions about his holding the Park’s highest post. She believes his presence, as top official, implies to the millions of tourists who visit the park every year that the Natives agree with that “monstrosity (the granite faces), that desecration of sacred land.”
Baker said he took the job only after talking to the family and elders at the Fort Berthhold Indian Reservation where he grew up.
In the end, he decided he could put the position to good through informing park visitors about a part of U.S. history they may not be familiar with. The truth about the government breaking treaties with the American Indian tribes? He said he eventually plans to include that information in future talks, but not yet.
Instead, he wants to tell his 3 million people per year audience not only about teepees and horses and battles but families. What did grandma do? What did grandpa do? What did the kids do?
“We know about the breaking of the treaties, the taking of the Black Hills but I’m not too concerned at this point to get that message out right away.”
I’ll bet White Face is concerned. So so am I. I feel we have a right to be concerned about another “Bush Tale”.
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The Conservative View by Ken Hughes: