MOUNT RUSHMORE — The message was loud and clear Friday night, as President Donald Trump and Gov. Kristi Noem stirred the crowd with rousing speeches aimed at declaring that America’s resolve to protect and defend its heritage remains undaunted by current events.
“There could be no better place to celebrate America’s independence than beneath this magnificent, incredible, majestic mountain monument to the greatest Americans who ever lived,” Trump mused “I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated.”
Both Trump and Noem dedicated significant time to addressing the growing movement by some to remove monuments throughout the country.
“Make no mistake; this is being done to discredit America’s founding principles by discrediting the individuals who formed them so that America can be remade into a different political image.” Noem said.
Noem’s answer to the call by some to form a “different political image,” was to point out that, although the men and actions represented in these monuments were not without flaws, it is the moment in time and the particular part they played in the formation of America that should be honored.
“This Independence Day, let us be grateful that we have such words and such examples to follow and that others were willing to sacrifice so much to create a land in which liberty and law can be protected. Let us not destroy history. Let us learn from it by preserving and imitating what is good about it,” Noem said.
However, in defending the actions of men who were, in their own time considered radicals, Noem touched on one of the fundamental lessons to be learned from the tumultuous times in America’s past – the ability of our country to change and adapt to new ideas and the current of time is paramount to our nation’s success.
“In 1862, a simple question was put before congress, ‘can we do better,’” Noem posed. “The struggle to maintain the union was about the proposition that America must live up to the principals articulated in the declaration. And America’s rebirth allowed a fuller realization of the fundamental purposes of government articulated in the declaration.”
As it was then, Noem said, the country is being divided today; driven apart by two conflicting views of the ideals set forth by our founders.
“The men and women who built this country envisioned an America that would project a positive influence throughout the world to spread the values of the rule of law, optimism, and liberty to places that had not known them,” she said.
But in a time when the moral ideology of the country is being debated, is there room for a new interpretation of the great American way of life? Could we be destined for another American rebirth? Our president says emphatically, “no.”
“Make no mistake this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American revolution,” Trump said.
Trump’s approach to the issue was that of his signature demonstrative, ‘it’s us versus them,’ way of thinking.
“The radical ideology attacking our country advances under the banner of social justice, but in truth it would demolish both justice and society. It would transform justice into an instrument of division and vengeance; and it would turn our free and inclusive society into a place of repression, domination, and exclusion. They want to silence us, but we will not be silenced,” he said.
Speaking under the gaze of Abraham Lincoln, who served as president during the Civil War and a divided nation, Trump declared division between us.
“Their (other American citizens) goal is not a better America, their goal is to end America. In its place they want power for themselves, but just as patriots did in centuries past the American people will stand in their way and we will win, and win quickly, and with great dignity,” Trump said. “They (again, other American citizens) think the American people are weak and soft and submissive. But no, the American people are strong and proud and they will not allow their country and all of its values, history and culture to be taken from them.”
Earlier in the day Native American leaders presented tidings of unity and the importants of all American people throughout the nation to appreciate this country for what it is, what it was, and what it can be.
Darrell Red Cloud, the great-great-great-grandson of Lakota Chief Red Cloud, told the story of how the Black Hills have been considered a sacred monument as the point of creation for all life on the planet to the indigenous people of this country for thousands of years. He said the different cultures that made up the tribes of this land would travel from all over to gather and worship at these natural monuments before a group of radical thinkers sought to dismantle them, and threatened to erase the established culture and history.
“Not only our people, but other indigenous tribes; they have utilized the Black Hills some time or another throughout time. … Different tribes utilize the Black Hills as a sacred site, but once gold was found in these Black Hills, everything changed for our people. A lot of things don’t sound too good when you tell the truth,” he said.
Red Cloud didn’t belabor his point, but continued his speech by concluding that no monument; man-made or crafted by nature, can have any value other than the value seen in it by the people standing before it. And although opinions can be different, priorities can shift, and power dynamics can change, America’s value as a point of unity for all cultures has never diminished.
“We all know that history. We are still here and we are never going to go away. The Black Hills are not for sale and they will never be for sale. This is Lakota land,” he said. “We all come from different directions in life, but we come into the center of the circle as one; the way it should be, the way it was meant to be.”
“We as a nation are going through a tough time right now, but together through our songs, our dances; through our prayers, we can heal as one,” said Jasmine Pickner-Bell, a member of the Crow Creek Dakota Sioux tribe. Pickner-Bell is a two time world champion hoop dancer.
“Dancing here at the Mount Rushmore Fourth of July celebration has become part of a tradition. It is a representation of, not only my people, but it’s also a representation for our younger females because the hoop dance originally being male dominated has brought a female aspect in balance back into that circle,” she said.
Pickner-Bell explained that every hoop used in the hoop dance represents a significant moment in the dancer’s life.
“Each hoop is a representation of a hardship, of a struggle, of obstacles; and then you build your story as you go,” she said.
Sequoia Crosswhite, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, performed original music highlighting three tenants of Lakota heritage- peace, love, and unity. Crosswhite’s music presented a message, which captured the spirit, heritage, and overall theme of what July 4 is meant to represent for all Americans.
“We’re all one related, one people, one nation, stand strong, let’s all get together,” he proclaimed.
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