By Ben Morris, MA, RPA
---- — “Mt. Rushmore is a desecration of our Sacred Mother Earth and a slap in the face of the Lakota peoples everywhere. Documents have stated that Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a ‘Shrine to Democracy’.”
The Lakota questions what type of democracy this shrine represents.
The four faces carved on stolen Indian lands supposedly represent the four most notable presidents of the United States.
With their ideals and values defined through the study of Iroquois society, America’s founding fathers are indebted to the Lakota and all Indiana peoples for their mere existence. But, in the Sacred Black Hills (our church, our synagogue, our temple) those presidents carved on the granite rock were more than mere democratic deviants.
The founding fathers on that rock shared common characteristics.
All four valued white supremacy and promoted the extirpation of Indian society.
The United States’ founding fathers were staunchly anti-Indian advocates in that at one time or another, all four provided for genocide against Indian peoples of this hemisphere.
In 1779, George Washington instructed Major General John Sullivan to attack Iroquois people. Washington said, “lay waste to all the settlements around… that the country may not merely be overrun, but destroyed.”
In the course of the carnage and annihilation of Indian people, Washington also instructed his general to not “listen to any overture of peace before total ruin of their settlements is affected.”
In 1783, Washington’s anti-Indian sentiments were apparent in his comparisons of Indians with wolves:
“Both being beast of prey, tho’ differ in shape,” he said. Washington’s policies of extermination were realized in his troops’ behaviors following a defeat. Troops would skin the bodies of Iroquois “from hips downward to make boot tops or leggings.” Indians who survived the attacked later re-named the nation’s first president as “Town Destroyer.” Approximately 28 of 30 Seneca towns had been destroyed within a five year period.
In 1807, Thomas Jefferson instructed his War Department that, should any Indians resist against America stealing Indian lands, the Indian resistance must be met with “the hatchet.”
“And,” he continued, if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, he wrote, “We will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or is driven beyond the Mississippi.” Jefferson, the slave owner, continued, “in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.”
In 1812, Jefferson said that America was obliged to push the backward Indians “with the beasts of the forests into the Stony Mountains.”
One year later, Jefferson continued anti-Indian statements by adding that Americans must “pursue the Indians to extermination or drive them to new seats beyond our reach.”
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the execution, by hanging, of 38 Dakota Sioux prisoners in Mankato, Minn.
Most of those executed were holy men or political leaders of their camps. None of them were responsible for committing the crimes they were accused of.
It was coined as the largest mass execution in U.S. history (See Dee Brown’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”).
The fourth face you see on that “Stony Mountain” is America’s first twentieth century president, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Theodore Roosevelt. This Indian fighter firmly grasped the notion of Manifest Destiny, saying that America’s extermination of the Indians, “… was ultimately beneficial as it was inevitable.” Roosevelt once said, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe that nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”
The apathy of these founding fathers symbolizes the demoralization related to racial superiority. Scholars point toward this racial polarization as evidence of the existence of Eugenics, a new term for an old phenomenon which asserts that Indian people should be exterminated because they are an inferior race of people.
Jefferson’s suggestion to pursue the Indians to extermination fits well into the eugenistic vision.
In David Stannard’s study of the American Holocaust, he writes, “Had these same words been enunciated by a German leader in 1939, and directed at European Jews, they would be engraved in modern memory.
Since they were uttered by one of America’s founding fathers, however, they have become lost to most historians in their insistent celebration of Jefferson’s wisdom and humanity.” Roosevelt feared that American upper classes were being replaced by “the unrestricted breeding” of inferior racial stocks, the “utterly shiftless” and worthless
The impossibility of persuading these four presidents to change their beliefs is as realistic as the impossibility that the Indian peoples will relinquish our determination in seeking the return and restoration of their Sacred Black Hills.
So long as the last Lakota is standing and alive, the consciousness of America will be the primary target in the Lakota struggle to regain the spiritual center: The Black Hills.
Ben Morris, MA, RPA is an archaeological columnist for the Greensburg Daily News. He may be reached at 812-932-0298 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.