RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL, S.D. When Gerard Baker, an enrolled
member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, was hired as the superintendent
at Mount Rushmore nearly four years ago, not much, if anything at
all reflected the rich history of American Indians in the Black
the proud guardian of the behemoth granite shrines of presidents
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham
Lincoln, said one of his priorities after he came aboard was to
bring the Native story to life.
story wasnt being told. A part of my position here is making
everyone feel welcome.
desire, along with plenty of input, led to the creation of the Heritage
Village exhibit in 2008, located off the Presidential Trail. It
features three tipis, each one representing the Lakota, Dakota and
summer, Native storytellers, artisans and hoop dancers engaged visitors,
and the park plans on doing it all over again this summer season.
park visitors sit, stand or walk, the ancestors of the Sioux freely
trekked before being forced onto reservations starting in the mid-1800s.
For Baker, the exhibit was the logical step forward to provide an
area where inquisitive visitors can learn about the Sioux.
probably the most popular exhibit we have right now. People love
to go there and ask questions.
have a long history of disliking Mount Rushmore for its tribute
to four white men carved into what once was their homeland, a reminder
of losing the Black Hills when the federal government broke the
Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, history that Baker said needs to be
shared with visitors.
want everybody to understand that this is a part of American history,
and we need to show all sides of that story. We need to talk about
the forced removal of American Indians from here, and being forced
on to reservations, and what happened with the breaking of the Fort
creation of the Heritage Village exhibit was also influenced by
a common question asked by visitors, What happened to the
after Baker started as superintendent, he and his staff visited
South Dakota tribes, and asked elders and members for input on what
could be done to educate visitors on Natives. He said that its
thanks to those meetings that Mount Rushmore has a more Native-friendly
environment, and more Natives than ever are visiting the park.
summer elders are scheduled to share stories about the past and
discuss contemporary Native issues. The park hosted an elders
summit in January 2008.
said that since relations with tribes have improved, a group from
the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has held a retreat there for the
second year in a row, and employment of Natives at the park has
grown to an all time high.
there are plans to carve out a new trail, temporarily given the
name Yellow Wolf, Bakers Indian name. According to the National
Park Service, the trail will feature a core loop system around Mount
Rushmore with scenic vistas, spur trails and interpretive stops.
When completed, it will sprawl 6 to 10 miles.
said his staff gave the trail his name, and an official name will
likely be determined in a contest for sixth through ninth grade
South Dakota students. He would like the park to host a youth summit
this summer, but those plans are still in the early stages.
I am trying to do is bring in as much youth as possible, so they
can start learning who they are, and start sharing that with visitors.
park staff is also in the process of revamping its General Management
Plan to reflect the diversity that makes up the park today and a
guideline to map out goals for the next 15 to 20 years. The last
GMP was updated in 1980.
Rushmore National Memorial draws nearly three million visitors a
year from across the country and around the world. It was named
after Charles E. Rushmore, an attorney from New York, during an
1885 expedition. The project was the creation of sculptor Gutzon
Borglum, along with 400 men and women. It broke ground in 1927 and
was completed in 1941.