Lakota Gather Peacefully at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, But Still

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In 1970, Indians led by United Native Americans (UNA) organizers occupied South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore National Memorial for more than a week and asserted the right of the Lakota (a Sioux tribe) to reclaim the Black Hills. On August 29, the 38th anniversary of the occupation’s onset, a small group of Lakota peacefully gathered at the memorial’s amphitheater to share cultural experiences and commemorate the historic event.

The historical roots of Native American displeasure with Black Hills developments like the Mount Rushmore National Memorial run very deep. The Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota were sacred to the Lakota and other plains Indians long before rapid economic exploitation of this landscape got underway with the gold rush of the 1870s.

It is highly germane that this incursion was illegal, and that Indians were wantonly killed or driven from land that had been treaty-promised to them in perpetuity. The Indian viewpoint is now, and for over a century has been, that the Black Hills were stolen and should be returned to the Lakota. (The UNA website link provided above portrays this viewpoint quite stridently.)

In the 1960s and 1970s, some Native American groups became quite confrontational as they asserted perceived rights to reclaim lands taken long ago by chicanery or outright theft that was condoned (if not sanctioned) by the state and federal governments.

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