President Trump is planning a massive fireworks display at Mount Rushmore on July 3, despite a decade-long ban on pyrotechnics at the iconic spot because of concerns about public health, environmental and safety risks.
Trump has wanted to stage fireworks at the national memorial in South Dakota’s Black Hills since 2018, according to two individuals familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. But the idea was scuttled or delayed by a number of his advisers, these individuals said.
The National Park Service stopped staging pyrotechnics at Mount Rushmore in 2010 out of concern that it could ignite wildfires under drought conditions. The memorial is surrounded by 1,200 acres of forested lands, including ponderosa pines, and lies next to the Black Hills National Forest’s Black Elk Wilderness.
Ian Fury, a spokesman for South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R), said in an email that the National Park Service had concluded the event will not harm the environment and conducted a controlled burn earlier this month to reduce brush that could fuel a wildfire.
“We are confident that the Rushmore Fireworks celebration can be conducted safely,” Fury said, adding that organizers are monitoring weather forecasts. The Interior Department has positioned firefighting resources at the site, according to a senior department official.
Neither federal nor state officials have imposed social distancing requirements as part of the gathering. The state tourism department, which is distributing 7,500 tickets for the event, has estimated that it has had requests for at least 125,000.
One senior Interior official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the department is following state health guidelines and is taking steps to reflect recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes signs throughout the park urging visitors to wear a cloth face covering when it is impossible to keep six feet away from others, and providing face coverings for all of its employees.
President Donald Trump’s plans to kick off Independence Day with a showy display at Mount Rushmore have angered Native Americans, who view the monument as a desecration of land violently stolen from them and used to pay homage to leaders hostile to Indigenous people.
Several groups led by Native American activists are planning protests for Trump’s July 3 visit, part of Trump’s “comeback” campaign for a nation reeling from sickness, unemployment and, recently, social unrest. The event is slated to include fighter jets thundering over the 79-year-old stone monument in South Dakota’s Black Hills and the first fireworks display at the site since 2009.
But it comes amid a national reckoning over racism and a reconsideration of the symbolism of monuments around the globe. Many Native American activists say the Rushmore memorial is as reprehensible as the many Confederate monuments being toppled around the nation.
“Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy, of structural racism that’s still alive and well in society today,” said Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and the president of a local activist organization called NDN Collective. “It’s an injustice to actively steal Indigenous people’s land, then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide.”
While some activists, like Tilsen, want to see the monument removed and the Black Hills returned to the Lakota, others have called for a share in the economic benefits from the region.
Trump has long shown a fascination with Mount Rushmore. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said in 2018 that he once told her straight-faced that it was his dream to have his face carved into the monument. He later joked at a campaign rally about getting enshrined alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. And while it was Noem, a Republican, who pushed for a return of fireworks on the eve of Independence Day, Trump committed to visiting South Dakota for the celebration.
Tim Giago, a journalist who is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, said he doesn’t see four great American leaders when he looks at the monument; he sees four white men who either made racist remarks or initiated actions that removed Native Americans from their land. Washington and Jefferson held slaves. Lincoln, though he led the abolition of slavery, approved the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Minnesota after a violent conflict with white settlers there. Roosevelt is reported to have said, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are ...”
The monument has long been a “Rorschach test,” said John Taliaferro, author of “Great White Fathers,” a history of the monument. “All sorts of people can go there and see it in different ways.”
The monument often starts conversations on the paradox of American democracy — that a republic that promoted the ideals of freedom, determination and innovation also enslaved people and drove others from their land, he said.
“If we’re having this discussion today about what American democracy is, Mount Rushmore is really serving its purpose because that conversation goes on there,” he said. “Is it fragile? Is it permanent? Is it cracking somewhat?”
The monument was conceived in the 1920s as a tourist draw for the new fad in vacationing called the road trip. South Dakota historian Doane Robinson recruited Borglum to abandon his work creating the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial in Georgia, which was to feature Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson.
Borglum was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, according to Mount Rushmore historian and writer Tom Griffith. Borglum joined the Klan to raise money for the Confederate memorial, and Griffith argues his allegiance was more practical than ideological.
Native American activists have long staged protests at the site to raise awareness of the history of the Black Hills, which were seized despite treaties with the United States protecting the land. Fifty years ago, a group of activists associated with an organization called United Native Americans climbed to the top of the monument and occupied it.
Quanah Brightman, who now runs United Native Americans, said the activism in the 1970s grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He hopes a similar movement for Native Americans comes from the Black Lives Matter movement.
“What people find here is the story of America — it’s multidimensional, it’s complex,” Griffith said. “It’s important to understand it was people just trying to do right as best they knew it then.”
And such a narcissist. How much money will the fireworks and the flyover cost? I'm sure it's a drop in the bucket compared to some other expenses, but, you know, maybe give that money to some states to step up their covid testing?
My active hatred of him just continues to increase....
Taking the demolition of monuments/statues/sculptures to new heights....
A second South Dakota tribal leader called for the removal of the four sculptures on Mount Rushmore, which is carved into land sacred to the Lakota Sioux.
"Nothing stands as a greater reminder to the Great Sioux Nation of a country that cannot keep a promise or treaty than the faces carved into our sacred land on what the United States calls Mount Rushmore,” Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier said in a statement, according to USA Today.
Frazier also criticized President Trump’s and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) plans for a July 3 fireworks display at the monument, according to the newspaper.
"We are now being forced to witness the lashing of our land with pomp, arrogance and fire hoping our sacred lands survive," he said. "This brand on our flesh needs to be removed and I am willing to do it free of charge to the United States, by myself if I must."
Oglala Sioux President Julian Bear Runner has also called for the removal of the monument, which he called “a great sign of disrespect” last week.
The federal government initially recognized Sioux ownership of the Black Hills, where the monument is carved, in an 1868 treaty, but the U.S. government seized them in 1876 as part of a series of post-Civil War campaigns against Native Americans after gold was discovered in the Black Hills. A federal court awarded the tribes $17.1 million for the territory in 1979, but the Sioux Nation declined the money rather than give up their claim on the Black Hills.
The monument was carved by artist Gutzon Borglum, a known member of the Ku Klux Klan.
The mountain has long been a flashpoint for Native American activists. In 1971, protesters affiliated with the American Indian Movement occupied the monument and dubbed it “Mount Crazy Horse,” and protesters affiliated with the activist group NDN Collective are set to stage a protest during Trump’s visit this week.
-------------------------------- "For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced." Frederick Douglass 1852
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