Lakota Sioux called it the Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe (The Six Grandfathers)- Mount Rushmore

Lakota Sioux called it the Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe (The Six Grandfathers)- Mount Rushmore

In the Paha Sapa on the stolen occupied land of Očhéthi Šakówi, renamed South Dakota by white colonizers there was a sacred hill among the other hills. The hill had magnificent sculpture carved by a being who was not man. Mount Rushmore Native American 

The Lakota Sioux called it the Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe (The Six Grandfathers). Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe were the Earth (Below), the Sky (Above), the North, the South, the East, and the West. As a child, my grandfather, who I called Robert showed me a cover of Life Magazine, which had the Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe. Mount Rushmore Native American 

Six grandfathers

It looked like faces, not white face, but six distinct faces and I asked my grandfather what happened to Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe, and he said, “Whatever white people tell you to do, do the opposite.”

How the Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe on Paha Sapa on Očhéthi Šakówi land, became Mount Rushmore on the Black Hill in South Dakota is a story of the cruelty of white nationalism in this stolen country run by people who very much remember and understand all the evil that they do and their obsession with attempting to put historical periods on their evil.

Manifest Destiny, a beautiful name for raping, killing, and stealing

Manifest Destiny (coined by journalist John L. O’Sullivan) was a purview from the 19th Century that stated that white men had the right to steal, rape, mine, and murder their way through North America.

How they were able to do this was via paperwork called treaties. I’m sure the treaty thing works well among white people, but with us, it works a bit differently. If you have had the misfortune of being colonized, settled, or enslaved by Europeans, you know that one of their favorite modus operandi is power. They enforce their power with lying pens and keyboards. They love power and they love making their power official with a lying official bullshit document that they reinterpret —if it ends up being even a little bit unfavorable to them.

The US has a habit of breaking treaties

So the lying racist power-hungry colonizers and their settler sacrificial tools arrive in Sioux territory in the early 1800s. They (the US) sign a treaty with the Cheyenne (Só’taeo’ o, Tsétsêhéstâhese), Sioux, Arapaho, Crow, Assiniboine, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations to guarantee settlers safe passage via the Oregon Trail if the US government promises to not overrun their land with white people and the white people who do come through, respect the natural resources.

And of course, the US broke that treaty immediately.

Like gentrification, but bloodier

There is gold in Kansas Territory, which instituted the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. Once settlers smell money, there is no stopping them. There were some even some documents that stated, “Hey we improved that dump. They have a farm slash coffee shop now. They should be grateful that we’re here — Black Lives Matter.”

Then in 1864, Colonel John M. Chivington of the US Army murdered 500 mostly women and children of the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Murdered because they were in the way of gold. All parties stated a renegotiation of terms was necessary.

Treaty of Fort Laramie is how the US stole Mount Rushmore

Treaty of Fort Laramie 1868 is how the US stole the Black Hills.

This treaty stated many things. Two items firmly established were the ownership of the Paha Sapa (Black Hills) by the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) and the formation of the Great Sioux Reservation.

But the United States broke it again. General Custer illegally went into the Paha Supa under secret orders from President Grant, and while he was there, he found gold. The US tried to renegotiate, but the Sioux Nation said no. To circumvent this decision the US used the 7th Calvary of the US army. The Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho led by Crazy Horse (Tashunka Witco) and Chief Gall inspired by a Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake) vision, in the Battle of the Little Bighorn aka Battle of the Greasy Grass aka Custer’s Last Stand handed the US its ass. The victory was one of a long war and eventually, the white men won which allowed them to break the 1868 treaty illegally and steal Paha Sapa and mine it for gold.

Mount Rushmore was an active act of disrespect, the US knew the Six Grandfathers on Paha Sapa had culture significance

To add the most significant dose of disrespect. The US government on October 4, 1927, had Gutzon Borglum (who had a few years prior took a commission from the Klu Klux Klan to scrape General Lee into a mountain in Georgia) scrub the grandfathers’ faces from Paha Sapa and replaced them with Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Roosevelt.

  • Washington who looked at Native American land as, “colonial space temporarily inhabited by Indian people.”
  • Lincoln who ordered the largest mass execution in US history. When he ordered the hanging of 38 members of the Dakotas for killing settlers who were trying to kill them.
  • Roosevelt who said, “This continent had to be won. We need not waste our time in dealing with any sentimentalist who believes that, on account of any abstract principle, it would have been right to leave this continent to the domain, the hunting ground of squalid savages. It had to be taken by the white race.”
  • And finally, Grant, who was the direct mastermind of the theft of Paha Sapa.

From the Smithsonian:

“The Grant administration launched an illegal war and then lied to Congress and the American people about it. He had no legal reason for seizing the Black Hills (Paha Sapa), so he invented one, convening a secret White House cabal to plan a war against the Lakotas. Four documents, held at the Library of Congress and the United States Military Academy Library, leave no doubt.”

Smithsonian, Cozzens, 2016

Mount Rushmore was a malicious, petty act of disrespect. The US knew the significance of the Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe (The Six Grandfathers); Mount Rushmore was created specifically to demoralize the the Native American community.

The US admitted it was wrong and offered the Sioux Nation payment for Mount Rushmore, they said no, because the money isn’t the point

In 1980 in United States v Sioux Nation of Indians, 448 US 371, the United States admitted the theft. The Sioux Nation was offered what is now $1.5 billion. The Sioux Nation told the US no, that they want their land back. They have learned what we all have learned, never let colonizers dictate the terms.

Support the Native Americans in their fight.

Blast those murderers’ faces off that hill and give the Native Americans back Paha Sapa.


by Teka Lo, Public Intellectual

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