Lakota woman shares history of Mount Rushmore 80 years after its completion

Before it was called Mount Rushmore, the mountain was a known as the Six Grandfathers.
Megan Schnitker, owner of Lakota Made in Mankato, Minn.
Megan Schnitker, owner of Lakota Made in Mankato, Minn.(KEYC News Now)
Published: Oct. 31, 2021 at 11:15 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Sunday marks 80 years since the completion of Mount Rushmore, but parts of its history are still widely unknown.

Lakota Made owner Megan Schnitker opened up about the story behind the popular tourist attraction.

“A lot of people kind of forget about the stories before these monuments were created,” she said.

Looking over the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota are the faces of four U.S. Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Its creator, Guzton Borglum, said the monument communicates “the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States.”

But to the Lakota Souix, it represents something very different.

“The mountain was sacred to us for many, many, many generations,” Schnitker explained.

Before it was called Mount Rushmore, the mountain was a known as the Six Grandfathers, a holy place to the Lakota.

“The Six Grandfathers were to represent virtues that were given to us. Whether through healing and ceremony, honesty, integrity, things like that,” Schnitker added.

The Lakota were the original occupants of the region, but they were forcibly evicted by white settlers and gold miners in the late 1800s.

Schnitker said, “80 years wasn’t that long ago. 150 years wasn’t that long ago. My grandparents remember certain battles. They were kids when a lot of these things were going on.”

Several deadly wars took place, forcing the Lakota to leave their ancestral lands and move to reservations.

“It’s not just Indigenous people’s genocides, but it’s genocides of many cultures being completely dismantled,” Schnitker stated.

The construction of Mount Rushmore began in 1927.

“It was like we took this, and now we’re going to disfigure one of your sacred sites,” Schnitker explained.

It was completed on Oct. 31, 1941.

The Lakota continued to advocate for their ownership of the land.

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that it was taken illegally.

Schnitker added, “It’s a sore subject with Indigenous people.”

The Lakota were offered a cash settlement but declined it.

Schnitker said it’s all about education and reconciliation.

“Bringing awareness and education so that we can have healthy conversations about why these sites are sacred to us,” she mentioned.

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