Sioux Tribal Leader Says Trump Unwelcome To Mt. Rushmore, Another Offers To Remove Monument

Leaders of two tribes of the Sioux Nation have spoken out ahead of a planned Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore, with one criticizing President Donald Trump's event and the other saying that the national monument should be removed altogether.

Harold Fraizer, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, offered to destroy Mt. Rushmore himself, in a statement posted to Twitter on June 30.

"Nothing stands as a greater reminder to the Great Sioux Nation of a country that cannot keep a promise or treaty then the faces carved into our sacred land on what the United States calls Mount Rushmore. We are now being forced to witness the lashing of our land with pomp, arrogance and fire hoping our sacred lands will survive," the statement read. "This brand on our flesh needs to be removed and I am willing to do it free of charge to the United States, by myself if I must."

"The United States of America wishes for all of us to be citizens and a family of their republic yet when they get bored of looking at those faces we are left looking at our molesters," the statement adds. "We are the ones who live under the stare of those who have wronged us while others have the privilege to look away and move on, we cannot. When I can remove those faces from our land I believe I would not be alone."

— CRSTChairman (@CRSTChairman) June 30, 2020

In addition to Fraizer's comments, the president of the Oglala Sioux tribal council, Julian Bear Runner, said that Trump's Fourth of July celebration will cause an "uproar."

"Trump coming here is a safety concern not just for my people inside and outside the reservation, but for people in the Great Plains. We have such limited resources in Black Hills, and we're already seeing [coronavirus] infections rising," Bear Runner told The Guardian. "It's going to cause an uproar if he comes here. People are going to want to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest and we do not want to see anyone get hurt or the lands be destroyed."

"The lands on which that mountain is carved and the lands he's about to visit belong to the Great Sioux nation under a treaty signed in 1851 and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 and I have to tell him he doesn't have permission from its original sovereign owners to enter the territory at this time," Bear Runner added.

Mt. Rushmore
The busts of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln tower over the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore National Monument on July 02, 2020 near Keystone, South Dakota. Scott Olson/Getty

Trump's visit to Mt. Rushmore has sparked criticism from the tribal leaders, who say the land it was built on was stolen from them. The monument is sculpted into a mountain overlooking South Dakota's Black Hills, land that was given to Native Americans after the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 was signed, but in 1874 the federal government reclaimed the land following the discovery of gold.

In 1979, the U.S. Court of Claims discovered that the tribes across the Sioux Nation were eligible for $17.1 million in compensation from the federal government's annexation of the lands, and just a year later, in an 8-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the federal government violated the Fifth Amendment and tribes in the area were entitled to further compensation in United State v. Sioux Nation of Indians.

The tribes declined the compensation due to the fact that it would legally eliminate their chances of having the Black Hills returned to them.

Newsweek reached out to both the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Olga Sioux Tribe for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.