Today we traveled to Mount Rushmore. It was a truly amazing sight. The grandeur of the endeavor was quite humbling. It was amazing to see such energy, effort, and organization directed to an art piece.
We hiked around the trail, and looked up their noses. It was a good hike, all paved. Along the trail were spots to feature each president carved in stone. The best angle seemed to be the cliche one, of course. We took the requisite photos and stopped by the gift shop.
It was in the gift shop, I saw the most striking pieces of art. There was a man who was in their selling his photos, featured throughout the park. He was old. I don't mean like over 55 Senior Discount. He photographed Mount Rushmore as they made it. He was well into his 90's. He was selling his photos of Mount Rushmore as it was being carved, and the pieces he did of the native people. It seemed his pride was the one of the last surviving group from a historic battle. That's when it dawned on me. Some have appreciated this mountain, long before there were faces of four presidents on them.
As I looked further around the gift shop, I could see a subtle under culture. Between the magnets of the presidents heads, there was another one with Native Chiefs standing in front of Mount Rushmore. The caption was "Our Founding Fathers".
I am part indigenous people, on my dad's side. My Grandmother's dad was from some local tribe. Since he was a "Dirty Indian" and never married my Grandmother's mother, no one ever spoke of him. (In fact, during her bed ridden years, she literally denied the whole thing, but my Grandfather said she knew it was true and she got so angry I thought she would stand up and knock him out.) My family is from a long line of Santa Fe Spanish Families, and Indian was a bad thing back then.
For me, we never even knew about all this, and in fact would have loved to have been eligible for Native American scholarships and such. All the Indigenous people I have met have all been real nice.
I remember my Grandparents and thought about them a lot while we were in Santa Fe, but aside from being stuck on reservations, have never really thought about their bum deal. However, here I am in South Dakota, and there was and appears to be still, quite a virtues clash between native's and the white men and women who claim this special connection to the history of the land.
I bought the magnet, so I can remember that there were many people contributing to the success of this nation, and many doing so before it even was the nation it is today. It also reminds me of my Grandmother, and the difficulty she must have had, being born a mixed race, and being forced to deny her heritage literally into her death. Such a shame, as Indigenous people have such a rich and beautiful culture and history.
We drove through the Badlands, and then to Wall Drug, the next day. Wall Drug is a gas station, convenience store, restaurant, and gift shop all rolled into one. It has been there since the west was beginning to get settled, and has been run by the same family ever since. It is actually worth the stop, if your driving by. We even drove 60 miles out of the way to get there, no regrets.