WASHINGTON, D.C. (KEVN/KOTA TV/AP) - South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson wants to make sure Mount Rushmore survives the current political environment.
Thursday, Johnson introduced the Mount Rushmore Act, which would bar the use of federal funds to alter, change, destroy or remove the likeness, the name of, or any of the faces on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
“These presidents championed the cause of freedom,” Johnson said in a release. “Those seeking to remove these iconic faces are undermining the contributions these leaders made in pursuit of a more perfect union. Removal would do nothing to move our country forward.”
As nationwide protests zero in on state and federal monuments to past historical figures, some people have even questioned keeping Mount Rushmore; citing the fact two of the presidents were slave owners and relationships between the four presidents and Native Americans were problematic.
In an Associated Press story, Native American activists say the Rushmore memorial is as reprehensible as the many Confederate monuments being toppled around the nation.
“Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy, of structural racism that’s still alive and well in society today,” said Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and the president of a local activist organization called NDN Collective. “It’s an injustice to actively steal Indigenous people’s land then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide.”
Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner says the monument was built on sacred Native land and is offensive to the Black Hills' original inhabitants.
"But as the Oglala Sioux Tribe that we would have to oppose that. To me just hearing it being read seems like it's an implementation or protection layer to protect that area."
Bear Runner believes the faces should be removed, but that it should be done as safely as possible, without disturbing the land.
The large granite slab was originally known as "The Six Grandfathers" before sculptor Gutzom Borglum began working on the famous monument in 1927.