President Donald Trump’s plans to kick off Independence Day with a showy display at Mount Rushmore are drawing sharp criticism from Native Americans who view the monument as a desecration of land violently stolen from them.
Several groups led by Native American activists are planning protests for Trump’s July 3 visit, part of his “comeback” campaign for a nation reeling from sickness, unemployment and social unrest.
But it comes amid a national reckoning over racism and a reconsideration of the symbolism of monuments around the globe.
Many Native American activists say the Rushmore memorial is as reprehensible as the many Confederate monuments being toppled around the nation.
The president's plans are also raising questions about fireworks safety. A fire expert says a fireworks display planned at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial is “ill advised” given the abnormally dry conditions and risk of summer wildfires.
The July 3 event could attract 7,500 people. Bill Gabbert is the former fire management officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the region. Earlier this month, he said shooting fireworks over the extremely flammable ponderosa pine forest should not be done.
The fireworks display at Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day has not happened since 2009, when it was ended because of fire danger after a pine beetle infestation. Additionally, a 2016 U.S. Geological Survey report ties high levels of perchlorate contamination in the water at Mount Rushmore national memorial in South Dakota with past years of fireworks displays there.
The pyrotechnics are set to resume this Independence Day holiday at the urging of President Donald Trump.