Sunday, May 27, 2007

Part 3: My land, not your land

The Black Hills of western South Dakota have always been a sacred place to the Lakota people. Their Lakota name, Paha Sapa, means "the heart of everything that is." In 1868, the U.S. signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie which guaranteed that the Black Hills would remain Sioux land. However, less than a decade passed before rumors of gold in the Black Hills led our country to revoke that promise. In 1877, after several land disputes had led to battles between the U.S. government and the Sioux nation, Congress signed a bill that forced the Lakota to sell the Black Hills, their sacred lands, and return to their reservations.

One of those mountains, known to the Lakota as "The Six Grandfathers," was renamed in 1885 after a New York lawyer, Charles E. Rushmore, during a gold expedition. According to Wikipedia, Rushmore saw this mountain and asked its name; his companion said "Never had any but it has now--we'll call the damn thing Rushmore." In 1927, to increase tourism in the Black Hills, the carving of the Four Faces began.

Our trip took us unexpectedly to Mount Rushmore, which is a celebrated monument of our nation's government that should never have been carved. Our government broke its promise to these people by taking this land from them, land that they knew as sacred. Then we defiled that land by carving faces that represent our government which had so wronged the Lakota people. As I stood and looked at this monument, faces carved in stone of people that our country reveres so highly, I could not justify it in any way. Is it offensive to God? I am in no position to judge, but my gut tells me yes--it does not revere Him in any way, and the story behind it is a tale of gross injustice committed against a people that He loves. And from a purely aesthetical standpoint, who are we to think that we can add value to the natural world by carving up these beautiful hills? Sad, on so many levels. And I am thankful that I was able to see it, if only to rouse this sense of injustice inside of me.


Anonymous said...

great blog!!

aTxVegn said...

Laura, you write so beautifully. This is my first visit here and I could spend hours. You are so talented. God blessed you with many gifts.