‘Not on my watch’: South Dakota governor rejects changing Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore won’t face a revisionist reckoning anytime soon as statues of former presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson face renewed scrutiny, South Dakota’s governor said Wednesday.
Gov. Kristi Noem promised to protect the famed monument honoring Washington and Jefferson, as well as former presidents Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, amid calls to remove statues of Confederate generals nationwide.
“This is no longer about equality,” Noem told Fox News Wednesday. “This is a rewriting of our history and in South Dakota we won’t stand for it.”
Noem noted “some activity online where people have made threats” that Mount Rushmore could be the site of future protests, but she vowed to defend the huge granite likenesses in the wake of nationwide protests following the police-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
“The more we focus on the flaws of these men that are on our mountain, the less likely we are to recognize the virtues and the lessons we can learn from their lives,” Noem said. “We will make sure that Mount Rushmore stays as majestic as it is today.”
Asked about the possibility of defending the monument from protesters and possible vandalism, Noem said she planned to “use the resources of the state” to ensure proper security measures are in place. She declined to provide specifics, Fox News reports.
Noem’s comments come one day after she succinctly made her opinion on the subject clear in response to a tweet from conservative pundit Ben Shapiro: “So, when is our woke historical revisionist priesthood going to insist on blowing up Mount Rushmore?”
“Not on my watch,” Noem tweeted.
The monument itself, however, has its own controversial past, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
In 1979, the US Court of Claims found that the Sioux Nation was entitled to $17.1 million in compensation due to the federal government’s seizure of South Dakota’s Black Hills, where the monument is located.
One year later, the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government violated the Fifth Amendment and that the tribes were due compensation in the case of United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, the newspaper reports.
But the tribes declined the compensation since it would’ve brought a legal end to their attempt to reclaim Black Hills. The effort to settle the dispute was revived as recently as 2009 and United Nations report in 2012 said the Black Hills area should be returned, the Argus Leader reports.
President Trump, meanwhile, is expected to travel to the monument on July 3 for a fireworks display.