Indian Country Today

The Trump administration is moving forward with names for the president's proposed National Garden of Heroes. The list at this point is largely political; only Republican governors have submitted names for consideration.

And one possibility is Donald J. Trump. The administration is leaving open the possibility of a statue of Trump himself in the Trump-created statue park after receiving what it said were “multiple nominations" of the president.

Trump ordered up the statue park during a Fourth of July speech at Mount Rushmore, and set up a task force on a 60-day deadline to get the idea going. He also mused in a tweet that it would be a “good idea” to carve his own face into that memorial.

The task force charged with executing Trump's vision – with all of the publicly listed members white — says it sent out thousands of requests to state and local officials for suggestions, both for possible sites around the country and for heroes to honor. Its findings are due to be given to Trump by Tuesday.

Many of the nominations stand in stark contrast to the list the Trump administration came up with, which mandated inclusion of a few dozen mainstream and conservative figures, from John Adams to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. 

A number of Native Americans were reportedly submitted to the Interior Department.

“We have so much history in Montana and our country,” said Yellowstone County Commissioner John Ostlund, a Republican, talking about his board's decision to nominate revered Crow Tribe leaders as well as cowboys, famous explorers and others.

"It was a conscious decision to include all sides of our history. All of the history ... I don’t want to erase anything,” Ostlund said.

Suggestions from many Republican governors, by contrast, were heavy with civil rights leaders, while many local officials pushed for a broader definition for what it means to be a hero.

The summer protests also spun off a debate over statues around the country honoring slave-holders and Confederates. Trump deployed federal forces to protect those monuments from protesters, embracing their defense as a law-and-order issue as he seeks reelection.

Floyd and the others “have shaped the future of America by finally bringing the systemic racial injustices present in our policing to the forefront of politics,” Zanelli wrote.

Most governors, including almost every Democrat, dismissed the Trump administration’s request for suggestions, according to the Interior Department's website on Friday afternoon. It's the latest example of governors ignoring White House requests — ranging from statues, to school openings to nursing homes testing — amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I haven’t given it a moment’s thought,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly told The Associated Press. “I have other things to do.”

Some were highly critical of the effort as an ill-timed political stunt.

“We would encourage the White House to spend their time on the response to the coronavirus,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger.

The Trump administration said it received “robust, bipartisan responses” from around the country.

“It’s a shame that some governors are unwilling to celebrate and recognize the significant achievements of their own residents who have heroically impacted our nation’s history,” Interior Department spokesman Ben Goldey said.

Oklahoma's recommendations

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt recommended three Native Americans and two Black Oklahomans as national heroes who should be considered for inclusion in a new National Garden of American Heroes.

The first-term Republican governor made the suggestions in a letter sent to the Trump administration this month. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on rebuilding public monuments and asked governors for their input on who should be included and where such a monument might be located.

Among Stitt's recommendations were former Cherokee Nation leader Wilma Mankiller, early 1900s humorist Will Rogers, both citizens of the Cherokee Nation, and Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe, a Sac and Fox/Pottawatomie citizen. He also suggested John Hope Franklin, the grandson of a freed Chickasaw Nation slave and a native Tulsan; Ada Louis Sipuel Fisher, who fought to become the first Black student at the University of Oklahoma College of Law; and aviator Wiley Post.

"The Oklahomans on this list embody the history, spirit, resiliency and strength of our state and people," Stitt said. "They each left a legacy that has far extended past state lines and impacted our world for the better."

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said he was unaware but pleased that Stitt recommended two members of his tribe for consideration.

"They're Cherokee citizens, but in many ways they belong to the world in terms of the efforts they've put forth in their careers," Hoskin said of Mankiller and Rogers. "The fact that they're Cherokee, of course, is very important to me, and it reflects an effort to add some diversity to those sort of public monuments. I think that's a wonderful thing."

Stitt has spent more than a year locked in a messy legal dispute with tribal leaders in Oklahoma over how much the tribes pay the state for the right to operate casinos. The feud has strained relations between several tribes and the governor's office, but Hoskin remained optimistic about the relationship moving forward.

"I think the governor's actions have caused and will cause some enduring harm between the governor's office and the Cherokee Nation, but it's nothing that can't be repaired," Hoskin said. "And it's nothing that can't be repaired within Gov. Stitt's remaining time in office."

Stitt also recommended two possible locations in Oklahoma for the Trump administration to consider for the garden: Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman and Lake Keystone, just west of Tulsa.

Arizona picks senators, Natives for Trump's heroes garden

A Native American U.S. Marine immortalized for helping raise the American flag over Iwo Jima during World War II. Two Arizona senators who were Republican nominees for president. The first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Those and other Arizona luminaries are among Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's picks for a new National Garden of American Heroes. President Donald Trump announced the effort this summer, and his administration reached out to governors and the public for suggestions to add to his own list.

Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

The list by the governor's office recommends three senators, two governors, military and civil rights heroes as well as two military units, including the Navajo Code Talkers. They used an unbreakable code in their Navajo language to communicate during battles in the Pacific during WWII.

The others are:

— Sen. Carl Hayden: He was known as a workhorse of the Senate, where he represented Arizona from 1927 to 1959 after serving in the House since Arizona statehood in 1912. His efforts on the Central Arizona Project, a canal system that brings water from the Colorado River to Phoenix and Tucson, helped ensure the state’s growth. He announced his retirement in 1968 and died in 1972 at age 94.

— Sen. Barry Goldwater: He was born in Arizona three years before statehood and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1952. He was the Republican nominee for president in 1964, defeated by Lyndon Johnson. He then ran for Arizona's other Senate seat in 1968 and won, serving until he retired in 1987. Goldwater died in 1998.

— Sen. John McCain: The son and grandson of Navy admirals was imprisoned after his Navy jet was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. He moved to Arizona after marrying Cindy McCain and retiring from the military. He won a seat in Congress in 1982, then won Goldwater's old Senate seat in 1986. He was the Republican nominee for president in 2008 but lost and remained in the Senate until his death in 2018.

— Sandra Day O’Connor: She was the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. She had previously been a judge and a state senator. She retired from the court in 2006. The 90-year-old announced in 2018 that she had dementia and was stepping back from public life.

— Raul Castro: Arizona's only Hispanic governor served for 2 1/2 years after winning election in 1974. He was born in Mexico and came to Arizona as a young man, earning a law degree and serving as Pima County attorney and a judge. He was ambassador to El Salvador and then Bolivia in the 1960s, resigning as governor to become ambassador to Argentina. He died in 2015 at age 98.

— Rose Mofford: She became Arizona's first female governor when Republican Gov. Evan Mecham was impeached and removed from office. The Democrat had been serving as secretary of state at the time and inherited a big budget deficit and criticism over the state refusing to adopt a Martin Luther King. Jr. holiday. Mofford was governor from 1988 to 1991, declining to run for a full term. She died in 2016 at age 94.

— Pat Tillman: The Arizona State University and Arizona Cardinals linebacker gave up a lucrative pro contract after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and joined the Army. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 in a friendly fire incident at age 27.

— Lincoln Ragsdale: He was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II and a prominent Black businessman and civil rights leader in Phoenix after the war. He died in 1995 at age 68.

— Frank Luke: Luke was an ace World War I fighter pilot who died in 1918 at age 21 after being wounded in flight. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. Luke Air Force Base in Glendale is named after him.

— Ira Hayes: A Pima Indian from Sacaton, he was one of six Marines shown in Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's famous “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” photo in February 1945. He later suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism and died in 1955 at age 32.

— Stewart Udall: He was elected to Congress in 1954, and President John F. Kennedy named him secretary of Interior in 1961. He served in the post until the end of President Lyndon Johnson's term in 1969, overseeing major efforts including the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the expansion of the National Park system. He died in 2010 at age 90.

— Annie Dodge Wauneka: She was the second woman elected to the Navajo Nation Council and worked to improve health and education within the tribe. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. She died in 1997 at age 93.

— The Buffalo Soldiers: This group of Black U.S. Army cavalry unit soldiers was based across the Midwest and West after the Civil War and often assigned to Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona.