Black Hills – Part II

Presidents and Rubble

Our second major destination in the Black Hills are two monumental monuments: Mount Rushmore and the still unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial.

Both of them are controversial (Mt. Rushmore is of course ‘old’ now, so the controversy is not exactly a live one), and both are outrageous at least in virtue of their size: they are sculptures carved into mountains! The controversy arises largely from the fact that the Black Hills were originally supposed to be Lakota territory, and that the site itself  is considered sacred by various native American tribes. Carving the faces of US presidents into the mountain is understandably seen as a major offense.

In response, some native American groups have decided to carve a memorial to Crazy Horse into a different mountain in the Black Hills. This memorial is still unfinished, since its supporters refused to use federal funds for its construction. However, the memorial itself is also controversial, and not all native American groups favor it. The idea of carving up a mountain face for the purpose of a monument arguably goes against the native American traditions, and, some argue, also against Crazy Horse’s personal beliefs and convictions.

presidents in the distance!

Needless to say, as a rock climber  and mountaineer, I find the idea of destroying mountains for any purpose offensive. Setting that aside for the moment, however, I will say that I found the faces on Mount Rushmore aesthetically less problematic than I had expected. The gigantic visitor center, auditorium, and flagged walkway, on the other hand, were pretty terrible.


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