Lakotas to Donald Trump: ‘You are not welcome here’

(National Park Service)

Dalton Walker

He Sapa is sacred and should be treated as such

Dalton Walker

Indian Country Today

Maya Eagle has a message for President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their supporters: “You are not welcome here.”

Eagle, Oglala Lakota, plans to protest Trump’s scheduled stop Friday to her peoples’ sacred He Sapa, or Black Hills, as part of South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore fireworks event. Eagle and others will be protesting that afternoon in Keystone, a small resort town along Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The Lakota also refer to the Black Hills as Paha Sapa.

“The Black Hills are the heart of everything that lives and breathes,” she said. “The Black Hills are supposed to bring positivity, strength and wisdom. These two men (Trump and Pence) bring the complete opposite. He Sapa are sacred, and they should be treated as such.”

The July 3 visit is one of Trump’s few public appearances since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country earlier this year and as deaths from the coronavirus pass 125,000. The visit also comes as Trump seeks a second term in November. 

President Donald Trump arrives on stage to speak at a campaign rally at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives on stage to speak at a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Park officials set up an online lottery system in early June for access to around 7,500 people. Only those with awarded tickets will have park access during Trump’s visit.

The event will include the first fireworks display at the 79-year-old stone memorial since 2009.

(Related opinion: Trump must respect sovereignty when he visits Mt. Rushmore on July 3)

Mount Rushmore is considered a national memorial by the National Park Service and is the state’s prized tourist destination, attracting nearly 3 million visitors each year. The faces of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were carved into the mountain by sculptor Gutzon Borglum in a more than decade-long project that started in the 1920s.

The memorial tells the “story of the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country,” reads information about the memorial on the park website.

That’s one perspective and the one often taught in America.

Another is a history long before White settlers. The mountain is known as Six Grandfathers to the Lakota, and He Sapa was never meant to be desecrated. Other tribes like the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Omaha also have history in the Black Hills and surrounding areas.

The Black Hills are part of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, and the country’s highest court ordered compensation in the millions of dollars to the Lakota for the illegal seizure of the Black Hills, an offer the Lakota have refused for decades. They instead want the Black Hills returned to tribal authority.

Mount Rushmore has also been included in a national discussion about the removal of controversial monuments and statues. Each president carved into the mountain has a past that affected Black and Native people, including Lincoln’s backing of hanging 38 Dakota men in Minnesota. And the sculptor, Borglum, had ties to the Ku Klux Klan, according to a report by the Smithsonian Magazine.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican and Trump supporter, issued a lengthy statement on Facebook this week, saying the men "honored on Mount Rushmore weren’t perfect; nobody is."

"They all had flaws. But they all had tremendous virtues as well, and they did incredible things for our country.”

Noem also said removal of the presidents won’t happen, “not on my watch.”

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Fraizer issued a strongly worded statement this week on the removal of presidents from the Black Hills. His post on Twitter had more than 6,000 interactions as of Wednesday.

In this Feb. 28, 2017, file photo, Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe leaves federal court in Washington. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem appeared headed Monday, May 11, 2020, for a legal confrontation with two Native American Indian tribes over highway checkpoints intended to keep the coronavirus away from their reservations. Both tribes said over the weekend the checkpoints would stand on their reservations. “We will not apologize for being an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death,” Frazier said in a statement. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen File)
In this Feb. 28, 2017, photo, Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe leaves federal court in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

“Visitors look upon the faces of those presidents and extoll the virtues that they believe make America the country it is today,” Frazier said.

“Lakota see the faces of the men who lied, cheated and murdered innocent people whose only crime was living on the land they wanted to steal.”

He added this “brand on our flesh” must be removed, and “I am willing to do it free of charge to the United States, by myself if I must.”

Protesting in the age of COVID-19

South Dakota is one of the few states that have not implemented stay-at-home orders, and Noem left most coronavirus-related decisions to city or town officials. The latest state health department figures list 6,826 positive cases, with 5,933 recoveries and 93 deaths.

In Pennington County, home to Mount Rushmore, 523 positive cases have been reported.

Noem said the Mount Rushmore event will not require social distancing practices or masks, although masks will be given to those requesting one, according to a report by NBC News.

Laura Ten Fingers, Olgala Lakota, plans on protesting along with Eagle in Keystone. Both are part of the Seventh Generation Collective, a group dedicated to uplifting Black, Indigenous, people of color voices. Both live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Ten Fingers, Oglala Lakota, said participants will be encouraged to wear face coverings and regularly wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. The group will provide sanitizer and masks, she said. As of Wednesday, 60 people have said they are planning to go to the protest, while another 260 are interested, according to the group’s Facebook page.

Ten Fingers said she is protesting to show Trump “we are still here.”

Mount Rushmore is about 25 miles southwest of Rapid City, the state’s second-largest city, and about 40 miles west of the Pine Ridge Reservation border, the closest reservation.

Pictured: Oglala Sioux Tribe "Entering Pine Ridge Indian Reservation" sign.
(Photo by Mary Annette Pember)

Tribes in South Dakota have implemented coronavirus-related restrictions that include stay-at-home orders, curfews and road checkpoints. Restrictions vary by tribe.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe implemented a travel permit application to better monitor where residents visit off the reservation. A permit isn’t required to leave the reservation but helps at checkpoints when returning.

“Whatever our tribal members want to do, we support them fully and everything they want to do on and off the reservation,” tribal spokesman Remi Bald Eagle said. “We just ask that they take the proper precautions so that while they’re out doing good they don’t end up bringing back bad.”

Six positive cases have been reported by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on the reservation. The Oglala Sioux Tribe has reported 79 positive cases and one death as of June 30.

Former Oglala Sioux Tribe president and Vietnam veteran Bryan Brewer said a group of veterans has been meeting on the reservation regularly and plans to assist with the tribe’s checkpoints over the holiday weekend. He said he’s hearing of white supremacy groups coming to the Black Hills for Trump’s visit.

“We are not worried about Trump,” he said. “It’s all of his followers.”

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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter - @daltonwalker

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Comments (13)
No. 1-9

My heart goes with you.


Trump wants his face on the monument alongside the other liars .


Excellent! All around this country in places where wise and reasonable people live, we should follow the example of this brave woman, Maya Eagle, and tell Trump and his cultist followers that they're not welcome.


My heart and spirit are with you today as you protest the assault on your land by the presidents. I do not understand why he is going there, but it is wrong. May all of your Tribe be safe! 💗


For who defend Mount Rushmore by saying, “What about Crazy Horse Mountain?”, anyone fluent in Crazy Horse’s life knows that this great man would be horrified to see a mountain carved in his “Honor.”

Mount Rushmore has nothing to do with the personalities of the four presidents, it’s message is the Dominance of the Conquerors.


The Indian is becoming more like the Black people, who considers themselves victims, Mothers with no husbands, children with no fathers, but you are not the Victim unless you have personally been wronged by another person. If you have been wronged by a person then that person is to blame, not the group with that color. The land was not taken from you personally, all these sins were done to our forefathers and family, maybe our Parents in some cases. My father was wronged by the Federal a Government who forced him to live in his school from grade 2 to 12th. He was wronged, but he was also smart and strong, he taught me to focus on me and not on what others are doing to, he helped me learn the ways of all me, and I put great effort, warrior effort in learning, becoming a Civil Engineer and later an Assistant to the City Manager of a Large City with the proper education, where I was able to influence the decisions of our community, where right and wrong is on trial ever day. Our people have been complaining for how long now, filing suit after suit to fight against those in control, yet we have not begun to see that through leadership and perseverance we can become those that are in charge and take our fight from a position of power rather than as second class people. Yes President Nixon tried to help us but he too was corrupt. If you are righteous and virtuous then should we not take control of the powerful positions? Or do you want to continue crying, whimpering and whining like the behaviors of the week minded. We must hold our head high, our chest out, speak of the future we want, take our ideals into our hands to achieve our future, use every opportunity to participate in the battle of life and light. Telling the President of this Nation to stay away will help you how? You know Mt. Rushmore will never be removed, and even if you bitched loud enough to get Custer State Park renamed, how has your life improved. We need one generation after another in the game, shaping our future and maybe even righting some the wrongs of the past. I know this will make many of you made, but those tribes doing these very things have the highest quality of living, just look at the Chickasaw Nation as one example. The real reason so many hate Trump, is because he is not part of the Political establishment, he is part of the elite who knows how the game is played, and the Politicos cannot control him. That can be advantageous to us, or a lost opportunity because we just want to complain. It’s time we shed our excuses and step up. There are lots of smart Black people that are doing this, I’m not talking about the protesters, I’m talking about the ones moving up the chain leaving the BLM crowd in the dust, but they do not care about our tribal people, only we can make our future. Be the light that carries the buffalo on the wind!


I hear your words. Courage and bravery are what we want to develop in our generations.
In my time with college, I realized just how powerful learning could be. Writing and reading and speaking are the stepping stones that we want for our children.
You brighten my path. I hear you. It is time to stop whining like spoiled children. It is time to take up the way of the warrior. Become the shirt wearer of the family. Live without anger. Live with both heart and eyes open for the benefit of the family. Begin this path for ourselves. Tell the truth to yourself and the rest will fall into place.


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These positive cases are strategically planted in Indian Country.