My grandmother lived in Sheridan, Wyoming, and I got to visit Mount Rushmore several times as a kid. This is the history I did not learn.
Ron Way, a former U.S. Interior Department official, wrote an opinion piece for the Star Tribune that filled in some blanks for me. It was headlined: The Real History of Mount Rushmore.
The column recaps the tragic history of the U.S. government’s brutal treatment of Lakota people and the theft of the Black Hills. It also adds a few nuggets about the Mount Rushmore’s sculptor, Gutzon Borglum.
According to the column, prior to creating Mount Rushmore, Borglum’s most recent work was carving Stone Mountain, Ga., a memorial to southern Civil War leaders. Stone Mountain also was “a grand gathering site for a white supremacist group Borglum belonged to, the Ku Klux Klan.”
When it came to Mount Rushmore, “Rather than sculpting Western heroes including Red Cloud, as proposed, Borglum prevailed with a self-promoting plan to do busts of popular U.S. presidents.”
Way closes with the following:
At Mount Rushmore, you may learn that the sculptures are arranged for maximum sun exposure, itself a cruel irony: The faces of the four presidents (white conquerors) peer southeast toward a reservation housing vanquished Lakota, who mostly live out forgotten, impoverished lives in the shadow of their sacred Paha Sapa [Black Hills] that, legally, still belong to them.
Click on the link for the full text. (Thanks to Kim Olstad for pointing out this article.)