Native Americans to protest Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Native American groups plan to protest President Donald Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore at the start of the Independence Day weekend.

Activists have long struggled with the South Dakota memorial to former United States presidents, which was built on sacred land for the Sioux tribe.

Trump will bring fighter jets and fireworks to Mount Rushmore on July 3 as he continues his campaign tour.

The controversial trip comes amid heightened racial tensions across the country.

Mount Rushmore features the 60-foot (18.2-m) tall faces of four American Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

The monument was carved out of granite rock between 1927 and 1941.

But the land on which the monument is located, the Black Hills of South Dakota, was taken from the indigenous Lakota Sioux by the United States government in 1800.

His sculptor was reportedly a white supremacist with ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

Some Native American activists say that the land must be returned to the Sioux and that the monument be torn down. Others say that indigenous groups should receive economic benefits from tourism at the site.

Oglala Sioux President Julian Bear Runner told the Argus Leader newspaper that Trump did not consult with tribal leaders about his visit.

Another tribal member and local activist Nick Tilsen told the Associated Press that the monument “is a symbol of white supremacy, of structural racism that is still alive and well in today’s society.”

“It is an injustice to actively steal the lands of indigenous peoples and then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide.”

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The dispute over Trump’s visit comes when throughout the United States, statues of leaders with ties to slavery have fallen in the wake of George Floyd’s protests.

The president is expected to sign an executive order soon to have any vandalism or destruction of public statues and federal monuments punishable by jail.

On Thursday night, he told a Fox News city hall in Green Bay, Wisconsin: “Every night we will get stronger and stronger [on statue protesters] and at some point there will be retribution because there has to be.

“These people are hooligans, but they are agitators, but they are actually terrorists.”

The memorials to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both slave owners, are among those that have been removed or downed.

A statue of Theodore Roosevelt, with the former president flanked by a Native American man and an African man, will also be removed in New York, a plan Trump called “ridiculous.”

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But South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem rejected the notion that Mount Rushmore would be next and tweeted, “Not under my watch.”

Trump’s planned visit made headlines earlier this month over his decision to host the first Mount Rushmore fireworks in more than a decade, despite environmental concerns.

The monument is surrounded by a national forest, and some fear the exhibit will trigger wildfires in the dry brush.

But park officials said they were “confident” that the fireworks could be carried out safely, the Washington Post reported.