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Conflict Between Native Indian Nations and US Government
“We did not give our country to you; you stole
“We did not give our country to you; you stole it. You come here to tell lies; when you go home, take them with you.” ―Sitting Bull
Since the fifteenth century, conflict has “colored” relations between the indigenous people of the Americas – American Indians – and the European settlers who immigrated to North America. After the colonies declared independence from England in 1776, leaders of the U.S attempted to either assimilate or eliminate America’s original inhabitants. By the end of the nineteenth century, most Indians had either died of disease or were killed by U.S. soldiers while attempting to defend their homeland. The federal government forced the relatively few remaining Indians to relocate to remote and undesirable areas of land in the West called reservations.
How exactly did the federal government expel American Indians from their own lands? Beginning in the late eighteenth century, the U.S. government negotiated (and violated) hundreds of treaties between various American Indian nations, with the ultimate goal of taking over American Indian territory.
In 1868 the U.S. signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie with the Sioux Nation, which stipulated the reservation of the Black Hills for use only by the Sioux, thus “officially” recognizing the Black Hills―sacred land to the Sioux―as part of the Great Sioux Reservation. Shortly thereafter, in 1874, American miners began searching for gold in the Black Hills, which violated the Treaty of Fort Laramie. Upon discovery of this coveted resource, more miners swiftly moved into the Black Hills. Within a few years, the U.S. government broke its promise to the Sioux, by sending the U.S. Army to the Black Hills to secure the territory for American miners.
The U.S. officially confiscated the land in 1877. Approximately one century later, in U.S. v. Sioux Nation of Indians (Links to an external site.)(1980), the Supreme Court ruled that “just compensation to the Sioux Nation, and that obligation, including an award of interest, must now, at last, be paid.” However, the Sioux refused to accept the money; they want nothing less, and nothing more than the return of their sacred land.
With the support of the U.S. Senate and national funding, in 1927, American sculptor Gupton Borglum began designing what would become the Mount Rushmore National Monument, or Mount Rushmore, a sculpture of the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Measuring approximately sixty feet per head, the likenesses of these former U.S. Presidents were carved into rock located within the Black Hills of South Dakota over a period of ca. fifteen years. Unsurprisingly, the sculpture became controversial given its location in contested land.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Black Hills, South Dakota
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