Labeling the indigenous populations of the northern half of the Western Hemisphere "Native Americans" is the equivalent of labeling the Jews of mid-20th century Europe "Native Germans".
From my essay, "In the Blossom of Our Sins"* I offer the following:
The Mt. Rushmore National Monument is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. To the tribe commonly referred to by its vanquishers as the "Sioux," the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa in the language of the Lakota peoples, remains the holiest of places – like the Vatican to many Roman Catholics. Assayed and determined to be worthless wilderness by the high priests of Mammon-on-the-Potomac, the Black Hills were recognized formally as sovereign Lakota "property" in a legally binding treaty ratified by Congress.
Shortly thereafter, in 1874, a certain young conquistador named Custer led a U.S. Army expedition into the area. Two millionaire miners accompanied that noble band of destiny manifesters. They discovered gold in them thar hills. And faster than you can say Eureka! the treaty was unilaterally abrogated. War was manufactured. The Lakota were cast out.
Then – this is rich – to add insult to the injuries of grand theft, genocide, and cultural annihilation, one of the sacred peaks of Paha Sapa was desecrated with the carvings of the likenesses of the leaders of the cutthroats and thieves.
It is as if barbarians had occupied post-Renaissance Rome, put its citizens to the sword, looted the Vatican, and on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, over Michelangelo's masterpiece, painted craven images of their chieftains.
Some years later, a Polish immigrant decided to balance the books by carving on a nearby summit the gigantic likeness of the Lakota war leader Teshunka Witko, or Crazy Horse. Today the artist's heirs struggle to complete his daunting project. Tourists visit the site each year, although in nowhere near the numbers who regularly flock to Mt. Rushmore. Which I've visited. Where the symbolism and savage irony hang thick and dank in the poisoned air.
As dusk falls, hundreds gather in the amphitheater at the foot of the monument to watch a documentary film about the great sculpture's creation. At the appointed time all rise and sing their national anthem, and as the lyric "brave" echoes through Paha Sapa, immense searchlights illuminate what I prefer to appreciate as the memorialized prototype for a later, equally portentous (if understandably less overtly celebrated) summit meeting of true American power-brokers: the Appalachin Conference.
With the labors of our intellect and, I pray, the furious manifestation of our passions, we are sculpting a Crazy Horse Monument of our own: the popularly if erroneously labeled "Conspiracy Theory." We do so to counterbalance the suffocating psychic weight of the Mt. Rushmore of officially created and sanctioned assassination myths. But will we ever complete our work? Do we dare to complete it? Could we have achieved our goal years ago?
The relevance to our common cause should be apparent.
* Copyright 2016 Charles R. Drago. All Rights Reserved.