Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse South Dakota

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For the generation that saw it born, Mount Rushmore was the symbol of American optimism after the triumph of WWI. For many who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, it became a symbol of the family road trip. And for American Indians of any generation, it’s a complicated symbol of broken treaties and loss.


Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore

Conceived in 1924 by Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum, the great sculptures on Rushmore were to be a ‘Shrine of Democracy’ that would use the presidents’ images to trace the country’s history, from its birth (Washington) through to its early growth (Jefferson), preservation (Lincoln) and robust development in the 20th century (Teddy Roosevelt). Work on the monument began on October 4, 1927, and ended 14 years later, on October 31, 1941. When the granite dust cleared, Rushmore had been transformed forever, with four enormous faces, six storeys high, peering into the Black Hills.

Mount Rushmore Entrance
Mount Rushmore Entrance

Though America hailed Borglum’s great achievement (completed by the sculptor’s son, Lincoln, after his father’s death), the work was a slap in the face to South Dakota’s Lakota people, to whom Paha Sapa (the Black Hills) was a sacred place that figured prominently in their creation stories. An 1868 treaty had given the deeds of the land to the Sioux ‘in perpetuity’, but their ownership lasted only six years.

When gold was discovered in the area, the U.S. government reclaimed the land. In 1876, when the government ordered all Lakota bands on to reservations, the great chiefs Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Gall organised a resistance that eventually destroyed the Seventh Cavalry in General George Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn LINK TKTK. But the Sioux’s victory was short-lived; in less than two years Crazy Horse was dead, and their fate was sealed.


Categories: Abacos, South Dakota, USA

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