Looking at the faces on Mount Rushmore on President’s Day
There was once a painting by a young Indian woman that was exhibited at an Oklahoma art show. The title of her painting was “Your heroes are not necessarily our heroes” and the painting advised white people to try to see that Indians do not accept all of their heroes as our heroes.
This painting is especially poignant this year as America celebrates President’s Day, a day that honors all of America’s past presidents.
There are four faces of past presidents carved in the side of a hill in the Sacred He Sapa (Black Hills). As we have done in the past it is important that some of the warts on those faces be known.
What the faces on Mount Rushmore said about Indians:
“If ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe we will never lay it down til that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi . . . in war they will kill some of us; but we will destroy all of them. Adjuring them, therefore, if they wish to remain on the land which covers the bones of their fathers, to keep the peace with a people who ask friendship without needing it, who wish to avoid war without fearing it. In war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them.” Thomas Jefferson, August 28, 1807
“I suppose I should be ashamed to say that I take the Western view of the Indian. I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.” Theodore Roosevelt, January, 1886
Authorities in Minnesota asked President Lincoln to order the immediate execution of all 303 Indian males found guilty. Lincoln was concerned with how this would play with the Europeans, whom he was afraid were about to enter the war on the side of the South. He offered the following compromise to the politicians of Minnesota: They would pare the list of those to be hung down to 39. In return, Lincoln promised to kill or remove every Indian from the state and provide Minnesota
with 2 million dollars in federal funds. Remember, he only owed the Sioux 1.4 million for the land.
So, on December 26, 1862, the Great Emancipator ordered the largest mass execution in American History, where the guilt of those to be executed was entirely in doubt. Regardless of how Lincoln defenders seek to play this, it was nothing more than murder to obtain the land of the Santee Sioux and to appease his political cronies in Minnesota.
Abraham Lincoln carried out these actions against the Dakota Indians of Minnesota in order to appease the white citizens. 1862
While many Indians aided the Americans in their struggle for independence, in 1779 George Washington sent 5,000 American troops under the command of General John Sullivan to destroy the villages of the Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca as punishment for aid which they had supposedly given to the British. Washington’s orders are for “the total destruction and devastation of [the Indian] settlements and capture as many prisoners as possible.” George Washington – 1779
It is important that Americans remember that until the December 29, 1890 massacre of Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee, America was at war with several of the Indian tribes of the Western United States. In prior years America and the states placed bounties upon the heads of Indian men, women and children and many were hunted down like animals and slaughtered. Their skin, scalps and oftentimes other body parts were turned in as evidence of their kill in order to collect the bounties. Thus the terminology “redskins.” We simply named the four presidents whose faces are carved on Mount Rushmore. If our readers would study the history of several past presidents and their dealings with American Indian you will find many more examples of the ruthless treatment Indians received at their hands.
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