The National Parks


Untold Stories | Mount Rushmore: Telling America's Stories

Discover the new interpretive program at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, spearheaded by Supt. Gerard Baker.

AIRED: June 27, 2012 | 0:09:29

- [Gerard] This place has been sacred to

millions of American Indians that came through here

from time immemorial.

When the creator made all of this,

they put their spirit into the hills themselves,

into the rocks, into the pines,

into the rivers, the streams.

It's alive from a physical standpoint

and from a spiritual standpoint.

(flute music)

- [Woman] Most of our visitors come to Mount Rushmore

expecting to hear the story of the four presidents.

What they're often surprised to discover once they get here

is the feeling of inspiration that hits

without them expecting it.

- [Narrator] Every year, millions are awestruck

when they behold the four President's carved in stone.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum began his monumental work in 1927.

He saw Mount Rushmore as a symbol

of America's greatest achievements.

But the Black Hills symbolize something

completely different to another group of Americans.

- Welcome to Mount Rushmore, the shrine of democracy.

Today we host the various cultures that make up America.

When I was first asked about doing the job here

as superintendent of Mount Rushmore,

and understanding that I was the first American Indian

to be in charge of this facility,

I started talking to the elders.

And I would ask them what they thought,

because there was some hard feelings,

there still is some hard feelings about Rushmore

and what happened and what it represents to some people.

Everybody I talked to said yes, by all means,

you should take that job.

What a better place to heal.

- [Narrator] For centuries, the Black Hills

were home to many Native American tribes.

Most recently, the Lakota Sioux.

But in 1874, George Armstrong Custer

arrived on a scientific expedition.

- What they found was gold.

And once the rest of America heard there was gold here,

there was no stopping.

It changed the whole face of the Black Hills.

It brought in the gold rush, it chased out the Indians,

and they lost a part of their lives.

They lost a part of their soul when they left.


How you folks doing today?

- Good, thank you.

- Way to get over there is right through here.

This is a presidential walk that goes

all the way around, in fact, it comes out

at the old studio.

At the studio, you'll still see the original

models they used for the Presidents.

Where are y'all from?

- Minnesota.

- Oh good, okay.

So is this your first visit here?

- [Woman] Yeah.

- Alright, excellent.

- [Man] It was this or the waterpark, so...

- Well, hey, I'm glad you guys choose this.

I'm glad you chose this.

When I first got to Mount Rushmore,

it was amazing because I would see people

stand there and look at those four Presidents

with tears coming down.

And if you study those four Presidents, they're amazing.

Each one of them did something marvelous for our country

and that's why we're still free.

One thing that was really missing, however,

I believe was the story of the American Indians

that lived here.

(drum beating and chanting)

- [Jasmine] Today, I'm performing the

Native American hoop dance.

The hoop dance symbolizes the circle of life.

It symbolizes how everything is connected

within that hoop, the cangleska.


I'm able to make different formations

that represent a eagle, a butterfly, a flower.

We are all connected within this hoop.

Whether you're from the red, yellow,

black or white nation,

we are all related, we're part of the Black Hills.

This is our sacred land.


- The first year I was here, we added the Indian teepee.

And it was extremely popular.

Come on, I'll tell you a little bit about it.

Come on.


Every tribe was different, you can always tell

which tribe there by the flaps.

And you announce yourself, or you'd say,

me zi sungila, my language that's me, yellow wolf.

And they say, come on in.

Or they don't answer you, they don't want you in there.

- [Woman] That makes sense to me.

- I remember one day I went out there.

And there was like 20, 30 people gathered.

And so I said, what the heck,

I'll just start talking about this.

So I start talking about that,

when I got through, there was about 200 people there.

And so that made me think, let's do something else.

Let's start talking about this.

- [Eugenio] Under the Sioux nation,

we have three subdivisions.

We have the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota.

We speak the same language, you understand each other,

but there's a dialect.

Okay, I'm going to mix it up here.

(speaks foreign language)

- [Group] Nakoda.

- N, you hear the N.

We want to teach the visitors from all over the world

the true stories of the Lakota.

Their side of the story.

- This is sacred ground to us right here.

This land was desecrated by the white people.

We have stories that are very hard to tell.

We have stories that are very hard to listen to.

Primarily the reaction is very positive,

but there's always those few that

condemn that they didn't want to hear

about the American Indian pledge.

Or they didn't want to hear about the breaking of treaties,

because it happened a long time ago,

it doesn't affect us today.

And I believe it still affects us today.

- Way down there.

- [Gerard] What a way to start healing our nation

so that we can get rid of some of the miscommunications

and the bad thoughts.

And if you want to get down to it,

get rid of some of the prejudice and racism

that we have in this country.

And it's there on both sides of the fence.

(folk music)

What we're doing right now at Mount Rushmore

is we're highlighting the various cultures

that make up America.

What makes up America, is not only American Indians

but the other cultures as well.

The Germans, the Irish, the Russians,

the Norwegians, the African-Americans,

that's the story.

- What are these called?

- (mumbles)

- My grandmother had some.

- [Gerard] You should know who you are culturally.

And I think Mount Rushmore stands for that.

Mount Rushmore stands for America,

and America is not made up of one group,

it's made up of a bunch of groups.

(folk music)

- Mr. Borglum's vision for the memorial

was to create a place that would tell the story

of democracy to the entire world.

There's much more to that story

than the four Presidents that are carved on the mountain.

There's the story of the people that the four Presidents

represent and the struggles for freedom,

and the struggles for democracy.

- [Gerard] One thing that I'm hoping people understand

is that they need to keep a sense of who they are.

The ultimate goal I would have,

is to have the young people tell their folks

they want to go to a National Park.

Not have the folks tell the kids

they're going to go to a National Park.

And so, when a young kid comes into our parks,

I'm hoping that it'll stir something in them.

It'll stir a curiosity in them that will say,

I looked at this teepee and I see this American

Indian talking about where they come from.

And I know I got a background too.

Maybe they can go home and they can ask

their mother and their father, you know,

where did we come from or what is our history?

And they start a dialogue going,

where they start talking about their cultures.

They start talking about who they are.

And maybe in the future, who they're going to be.

(piano music)