Authentic American History

I am a big enthusiast of history and personal stories of the past from various perspectives. Why you ask? Because they allow ME to choose where more of the truth and reality of events can be deciphered rather than hearing or reading only one version of those stories and events. This enigma and anomaly of singularity is no better symbolized than by two very different American memorials.

The fact that there are two dissimilar memorials, two divergent storylines about the same events in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, with Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, I find intriguing, peculiar, and refreshing. The two exemplify humanity’s resilience, national cannibalism and expansionism, and behavioral complexity, while still having some level of equity, even if it takes over a century to acquire and disclose.

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If you go to the National Park Service’s website of Mount Rushmore, you’ll read the header, American History, Alive in Stone…” The introduction goes on to say:

Majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota, tell the story of the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country. From the history of the first inhabitants to the diversity of America today, Mount Rushmore brings visitors face to face with the rich heritage we all share.

If you click the “Read More” link following, it takes you to a page to assist you with making plans for your trip to visit the memorial and helpful tips. If you’d like to know the history behind the creation of Mount Rushmore, you are going to have to dig further.

Learn About the Parkthe NPS
Scrolling down this menu tab following the Plan Your Visit tab, you find a number of subjects related to the memorial. However, out of the eight choices you will only find one about the history (and creation) of Mount Rushmore under the heading of History & Culture. There you will find three more sub-menus, two of which are about the history:  1) People, and 2) Stories.

Under this People header you can read brief backgrounds of the important men of the project who contributed in various methods to the legal proceedings to begin the construction, fund-raising, its blueprints, development, and finishing with particular attention to Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Of more interest are the speeches of these two presidents at Mount Rushmore. Coolidge’s speech beginning the official construction he made on August 10, 1927 and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech dedicating Jefferson’s unveiling on August 30, 1936. I recommend reading both speeches if you can.

Under the Stories header you will find ten (10) sub-menus. Of those ten, you will find maybe 2-4 topics relating to the contextual history of Mount Rushmore. Back to the main menu of Learn About the Park, toward the bottom is the sub-header Education. That tab has Parks as Classrooms which divides into four more sub-sub-menus, two of which might lead one to a contextual history of this National Park:  Curriculum Materials and Other Resources. After examining completely both of those topics, including every single offerings of history/social studies curriculums, nowhere is there found any mention at all, not even the support(?) by one or any of the original inhabitants of the Black Hills where the monument was built. Reading the popular majority of information available on Mount Rushmore you will or should come away with a purely Euro-American white-man narrative of people and events. The lopsidedness is unavoidable.

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Gold Discovered in the Black Hills

In the early 1860’s while on missionary duties to several Native American tribes in Montana, Idaho, and Dakota territories, Jesuit Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, reported to American settlers and expansionist he saw Sioux indians carrying gold they said came from the sacred grounds of the Black Hills. Meanwhile, since the mid-1700’s several tribes like the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Pawnee were being pushed out of their native lands westward by American settlers and mercantile, forcefully and by habitat degradation of living resources. Due to the rich buffalo hunting grounds of the northern plains, many refugee tribes settled in and around the Black Hills.

1868-Treaty-Ft-Laramie

Due to constant skirmishes between American settlers-commerce moving West and Native tribes defending their lands, sovereignty, and way of life, the U.S. Government began studying and considering methods of “obtaining peace” with the “hostile peoples.” In the spring of 1868 a conference was held between the white-man U.S. Government and the Sioux indians in Fort Laramie, Wyoming. This became the Treaty of Fort Laramie. It proposed four primary accords signed by both parties:

  • Set aside a 25 million acre tract of land for the Lakota and Dakota encompassing all the land in South Dakota west of the Missouri River, to be known as the Great Sioux Reservation
  • Permit the Dakota and Lakota to hunt in areas of Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota until the buffalo were gone (yet white-man hunters were already wiping out the bison)
  • Provide for an agency, grist mill, and schools to be located on the Great Sioux Reservation
  • Provide for land allotments to be made to individual Indians; and provide clothing, blankets, and rations of food to be distributed to all Dakotas and Lakotas living within the bounds of the Great Sioux Reservation

Sadly, however, neither the U.S. Government nor the Sioux indians and the other tribes had gotten wind of rising rumors about discovered gold and its implications. In November 1875, American prospectors found a large deposit in the Deadwood Gulch. This would be the death-pick for the Native American tribes and the start of the Black Hills Gold Rush. By 1872 the constant violation of the Ft. Laramie Treaty by white settlers, miners, and mercantilist — e.g. the Northern Pacific Railroad traversing straight through their buffalo hunting grounds — were so rampant and not stopped by the U.S. Government and President Ulysses Grant that inevitably on the grounds of utter disrespect and continued degradation of sacred Ogala-Hunkpapa Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho lands and living resources (declining buffalo), and broken promises by White Americans, the angered tribes led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse wanted no more forked-tongue talk from the white-men.

As many nationalistic, overly patriotic American politicians and their constituents today would do to protect their own homes, family, and living resources, the Native American Indians did exactly what any human would do in the face of hostile takeovers:  standup and fight!  And so began the Great Sioux War.

Most Americans today know the popular history stories about General George Custer’s valiant last stand at the battle of Little Big Horn and maybe related surrounding battles, but what most Americans do not really know or understand in-depth are the racist, discriminatory treatment and persistently broken U.S. treaties with Western and Great Plains Indians from the late 18th and entire 19th century. When Mount Rushmore was first imagined, drafted, and construction began in 1927, the story of the Black Hills Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, along with many other tribes were essentially omitted and written out of authentic American history.

sd-crazy-horse-model-monument

The Crazy Horse Memorial is the deserved symbol and story of a people and a way of life intentionally removed from their lands to foreign lands (reservations) undesirable by their conquerors, and through either militant extermination or oppression, their way of life — ironically not protected under the U.S. Constitution, DoI, or legally by state and federal courts — is only survived today by lucky survivors of ruthless, heartless American expansionism and commerce that defines most of U.S. history into the world empire it is today; the “other” side of the little told story of this nation.

Instead of the more popular patriotic slogans most Euro-Americans enjoy tossing around loosely, here’s another…

“God Forgive White America, Its Greed, Racism, and the Blood on its Hands!”

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21 thoughts on “Authentic American History

  1. Great history. Here’s a couple of other interesting tidbits about Mount Rushmore and its creator Gutzon Borglum:

    From: https://nypost.com/2017/02/08/this-secret-room-in-mount-rushmore-is-having-a-moment/

    Tucked inside Lincoln’s frontal lobe in Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota is a secret, inaccessible-to-the-public chamber.

    The vault was designed by the monument’s sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who envisioned it as a room dedicated to the history of the United States.

    From: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/rushmore-borglum/

    While at Stone Mountain, Borglum became associated with the newly reborn KKK. Whether this accorded with a racist world view, or if it was simply a way to bond with some of his patrons on the Stone Mountain project, is unclear.

    Liked by 3 people

      • It was the father. His son only had a subsidiary role in the sculpting of Mount Rushmore. From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutzon_Borglum

        Borglum was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.[36] He was one of the six knights who sat on the Imperial Koncilium in 1923, which transferred leadership of the Ku Klux Klan from Imperial Wizard Colonel Simmons to Imperial Wizard Hiram Evans.[37] In 1925, having only completed the head of Robert E. Lee, Borglum was dismissed from the Stone Mountain project, with some holding that it came about due to infighting within the KKK, with Borglum involved in the strife.[38] Later, he stated, “I am not a member of the Kloncilium, nor a knight of the KKK,” but Howard Shaff and Audrey Karl Shaff add that “that was for public consumption.”[39] The museum at Mount Rushmore displays a letter to Borglum from D. C. Stephenson, the infamous Klan Grand Dragon who was later convicted of the rape and murder of Madge Oberholtzer. The 8×10 foot portrait contains the inscription “To my good friend Gutzon Borglum, with the greatest respect.” Correspondence from Borglum to Stephenson during the 1920s detailed a deep racist conviction in Nordic moral superiority and urges strict immigration policies.[40]

        […]

        Borglum alternated exhausting on-site supervising with world tours, raising money, polishing his personal legend, sculpting a Thomas Paine memorial for Paris and a Woodrow Wilson memorial for Poznań, Poland (1931).[43] In his absence, work at Mount Rushmore was overseen by his son, Lincoln Borglum. During the Rushmore project, father and son were residents of Beeville, Texas. When he died in Chicago, following complications after surgery, his son finished another season at Rushmore, but left the monument largely in the state of completion it had reached under his father’s direction.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article. All true. I haven’t been to the Rushmore website, but at the actual monument nowadays, there is a section dedicated to the Native Americans that discusses these issues.

    Another fun fact (this doesn’t excuse the actions of the US government), these tribes moved into the Dakotas somewhere in the 15th and 16th century. Our idea of them being “Plains Indians” is actually a more recent feature of their history.

    My cousin has been in Lincoln’s head. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • TSA, thank you kindly. I am happy to hear about the phyical section there at Rushmore for the Native American story. Do you know where one might read about it online… possibly through the National Park Service?

      Regarding the specific years the numerous fleeing Native American tribes arrived, you are correct. As they were all being pushed west of the Mississippi River, then the Missouri River, etc, if they didn’t end up on reservations, ala Oklahoma, they fled further west hoping to regain a symblance of their culture. And yes, the white man and HIS history then labelled them Plains Indians.

      I appreciate your feedback and comment TSA. Thanks you!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I couldn’t find much on the westward Sioux migration either other than a few references to the Seven Years’ War. Apparently, that war between Britain and France involved several Native American tribal nations which split their alliances and pit them against each other. From what I was able to read, the Sioux and Iroquois fought savagely with the Iroquois winning and pushing the Sioux westward into the plains.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It is horrible how white washed the history of our country is. The sad fact is most people don’t want to know the truth. They prefer the myth, the fantasy, to the hard fact of what terrible things our forefathers were willing to do to others to get that they wanted. It is hard to learn the lessons of history if we refuse to face our real actions in it. Hugs

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes Scottie. As I’ve posted here before (Agnotology), the annals of history are almost always written by the victors and oppressors. The U.S. of the 18th – 21st centuries typically only know ONE version of our nation’s authentic history. And that is CERTAINLY true regarding the origins of their Christian “faith/religion” too, isn’t it? 😉

      Liked by 3 people

    • Yep. If it hadn’t been for my Dad in high school and through out college reminding me of alternative history, or rather all facets and viewpoints of conflicts and controversies, I wouldn’t have known much better. Though my Dad was pretty serious in the Boy Scouts of America as a boy and teenager (up to Eagle Scout), his love and intrigue about Native American tribes/cultures being able to live off the land superbly AND respect it and replenish it (ecofriendly), rubbed off on me. I give him huge props for teaching me sound critical-thinking skills and methods. 🙂

      Sounds like you are doing the same with your kids. 👍

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Great post Professor, in my twenties I read a goodly amount on the devastation meted out by the white folks upon the tribes and what is out there on the subject is horrific. The erasing. Terrible stuff. I’m glad to hear about the Crazy Horse Statue that’s breaking free of the stone though. Also the room in Lincoln’s head is really interesting (thanks to Robert). I’ve read your recent religious posts too, and very well written they are. *nods*

    – Esme agreeing with Jeff and waving at the Prof upon the Cloud

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Madame Esme.

      It’s so interesting and sometimes disturbing to me — being a former teacher/educator in Social Studies, History, and Science (Earth science) for middle schoolers — how either generic (boring?) or slanted our Texas, U.S., and World History textbooks and state curriculum standards are toward one lens: Euro-American ideals. Everyone else is secondary or lower, as far as priority and depth. In some ways (for only a 180-190 day school year) its understandable for time-constraints and all the other random, unpredictable adolescent “behaviors” that can or don’t happen, 😄 BUT those wider lenses, that kaleidoscope of the contextual vista isn’t typically offered even in extra credit lessons. 😦

      Therefore, much of a America’s and Texas’ students BROAD(er) learning(?) falls to parents and their world-view inherited (many times) from their own parents, etc. Yikes! And we see/know how well THAT method works (not) and prepares our youth (double not!) for the ENTIRE complex, diverse world!!! 😨 Hence, the purpose and beauty of broad, general, FREE public education for everyone no matter race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, economic or social status! We all sit on the pot the same — well, unless one is in special hospice care. 😛 Ugh… but that’s the THEORY anyways. It’s application, as you well know Madame, is an entirely different, complex, and oft diabolical story and dynamics. At least here in Texas and other parts of the nation it is. Grrrrrrrr! 😠

      Liked by 1 person

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