Native American activists are planning protests during President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rally sparks self quarantine of dozens of Secret Service agents GOP: Trump needs a new plan Trump faces ObamaCare court deadline as political ground shifts MORE’s planned July 3 visit to Mount Rushmore, already a longtime source of contention due to its location on sacred Lakota Sioux land.
“Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy, of structural racism that’s still alive and well in society today,” Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and the president of NDN Collective, a local activist organization, told The Associated Press. “It’s an injustice to actively steal Indigenous people’s land then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide.”
Trump is set to visit the monument, carved into South Dakota’s Black Hills, for a Fourth of July celebration that will feature the first fireworks at the location in decades. It comes, however, during a period of fierce debate over statues and monuments that represent oppression or atrocities for some.
Mount Rushmore historian and writer Tom Griffith noted that its sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan, which experienced a renaissance in the 1920s after the release of the pro-Klan historical epic film “Birth of a Nation.”
Native American activists have for years protested at the site for both what they view as the desecration of the Black Hills and the U.S. government’s forcible seizure of the land despite treaties protecting it. Members of United Native Americans, a group affiliated with the American Indian Movement (AIM), scaled and occupied the monument in the 1970s.
Quanah Brightman, the current leader of United Native Americans, told the AP the civil rights movement in the 1960s helped inspire the AIM a decade later and said he hoped the Black Lives Matter movement could inspire a similar resurgence among his community.
“What people find here is the story of America — it’s multidimensional, it’s complex,” Griffith told the AP. “It’s important to understand it was people just trying to do right as best they knew it then.”