A Different View of Mount Rushmore

Information about and images of Mount Rushmore from an American Indian or Native American perspective.

There are several variations on the image above, which contrasts the faces of U.S. Presidents on Mount Rushmore with those of famous Native leaders. (This one happens to come from Julian Lennon's Facebook page.)

Below are a few more examples of the concept, as well as some information on the legacy of Mount Rushmore:


The re-imagining of Mount Rushmore goes beyond disputes about, for instance, who should be considered the "real" founding fathers -- Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills, land that i sacred to a number of tribes. It's also land that, according to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, was to belong to American Indians forever. But after an expedition led by General Custer discovered gold there in 1874, the Fort Laramie Treaty was soon scrapped and the Lakota relocated to reservations.

The Lakota and others say that Mount Rushmore isn't just a piece of art they dislike; it's a piece of art they dislike that, to put it in European terms, has been forcibly installed in their own church.

The Need to Know

Native American Netroots has an extensive post on Mount Rushmore that is worthwhile reading. Here are a few interesting facts from it:

  • Mount Rushmore was known to the Sioux as Six Grandfathers. It was given the name "Rushmore" on a whim, in 1884, when New York City attorney Charles E. Rushmore asked what it was called.
  • The idea of a giant sculptural monument was dreamed up by South Dakota historian Doane Robinson in 1923; his original vision was an homage to historical figures from the American West, including George Armstrong Custer, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and even Chief Red Cloud.
  • From 2004-2010, the superintendent of the park was Gerard Baker, Mandan/Hidatsa), previously superintendent at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana. When offered the job, Baker consulted tribal leaders who told him that having a Native in the position would be a step toward healing the wounds of history. Baker initiated a number of efforts to make tourists aware of the land's value to Natives.

A Fifth Face?

Ben Black Elk

Ben Black Elk

There was, for more than 27 years, an acknowledged fifth face of Mount Rushmore: Ben Black Elk, famous as an on-site ambassador of Lakota culture until his death in 1973. Click here for more about Ben Black Elk.

Place of Protest

During the heyday of the American Indian Movement, Natives held a number of protests at Mount Rushmore -- at one point rechristening it Crazy Horse Mountain. The video below shows two news clips from the era; the first is coverage of the National Congress of American Indians in 1969, featuring some strong words from Lehman Brightman of the United Native Americans. The second half of the video is a news report about a protest at Mount Rushmore that began in August 1970.