“The Black Hills have been sacred to the Lakota and other native people for thousands of years, known as a place of extraordinary spiritual power. Within the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve lies Harney Peak, described by Lakota spiritual leader Black Elk as “the Center of the World.” Logging roads are now being built in this landscape, destroying sacred places that cannot be restored. The logging itself will have long-term impacts on old-growth trees, associated water systems and wildlife.
Over the years, the Black Hills have experienced mining, logging, and recreational uses, often in violation of Lakota beliefs. Mining for gold, coal and uranium pollutes water. Cyanide heap-leach gold mines, such as Homestake and Gilt Edge, use cyanide to extract gold from crushed ore. The cyanide mixes with other chemicals, producing toxic chemicals which can leach into the groundwater. This sort of mining leaves huge open pits which scar the landscape, and frequently the companies are allowed to abandon the mines without cleaning up or restoring the land to its original state.”
The Black Hills stretch across western South Dakota, northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana and constitute a sacred landscape for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Omaha. To the Lakota, they are the Paha Sapa, or “black hills.” These sacred lands were the casualty of one of the most blatant land grabs in U.S. history and continue to be the site of a legal and political confrontation.
“Mount Rushmore is on stolen Lakota land and its very existence is a symbol of white supremacy” says Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective President and CEO. “In opposing the ongoing desecration of our sacred land and asking for return of Lakota lands where Mount Rushmore is situated, we’re not saying anything that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents haven’t already said– The Lakota have opposed Mount Rushmore since the very beginning.”
“Indigenous people have resisted colonization for the past 500 years,” says Tilsen. “Colonization is the oldest form of white supremacy, and America is being called out and called up to acknowledge that. Mount Rushmore is yet another symbol of white supremacy and colonization, and until it is returned to the Lakota, we will continue to oppose it and fight for justice.”