GOP moves to protect Mount Rushmore from activists looking to rename it or tear it down

House Republicans this week proposed legislation aimed at protecting Mount Rushmore from being altered, renamed or demolished by activists who say the monument disrespects Native Americans.

The Mount Rushmore Protection Act would prohibit the use of federal funds to change, destroy or rename the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The bill from Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., is a response to criticism that has grown since former President Trump visited the site in 2020.

“Our nation’s history is not without its flaws, but there is no doubt the faces on Mount Rushmore represent democracy, freedom and the great American experiment,” Johnson said. “Removing or changing Mount Rushmore will not change the past and will not move us forward as a country. We must protect Mount Rushmore for generations to come.”

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The busts of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln tower over the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore National Monument.
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Opposition to the famous memorial was stoked after Trump’s visit, which led to complaints from Native Americans that the monument is built on sacred land in the Black Hills that was taken from them once gold was discovered. One citizen of a South Dakota tribe told Voice of America in 2020 that Mount Rushmore is a “symbol of ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation and the theft of our territory,” and that Trump’s visit was a reminder of the “continuing genocide of our people.”

Also last year, former NBA player Jalen Rose called on people to retire the term “Mount Rushmore” because the monument sites on land that was “stolen… when it was discovered that it contained gold.”

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Rep. Dusty Johnson’s bill says the monument represents democracy, freedom and the great American experiment.
(Reuters/Ken Cedeno)

Johnson’s bill finds that the memorial is “America’s Shrine of Democracy” and combines the images of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln with “the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota.”

Aside from barring any changes to the memorial, the bill would also require that any reference to the site on maps and other documents must refer to “Mount Rushmore.”

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President Donald Trump smiles at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, July 3, 2020, near Keystone, South Dakota. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Republicans supporting the bill so far are Reps. Michael Guest of Mississippi, Alex Mooney of West Virginia, Doug LaMalfa of California, Jim Banks of Indiana, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Chris Stewart of Utah, Troy Nehls of Texas, Claudia Tenney of New York and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, the delegate from American Samoa.

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Last week, the Biden administration announced it would again prohibit any display of fireworks at the memorial for the third year in a row.