Crowds celebrate freedom at Mount Rushmore


FOURTH OF JULY FUN — With their likenessses in stone in the background, the four presidential re-enactors, top, posed for pictures at Mount Rushmore on Monday. From left are George Washington (Carl Closs), Thomas Jefferson (Tom Pitz), Teddy Roosevelt (Gib Young) and Abraham Lincoln (Fritz Klein). [PN Photo/CAROL WALKER]

By Carol Walker

Backed up along the highway toward Keystone were cars filled with people who were eager to get into Mount Rushmore, view the monument and take part in the many activities of the day. It was a full day for officials at the Monument as they scheduled the appearance of special people to help visitors, many of them dressed in red, white and blue, reflect on the significance of the Shrine of Democracy, as well as the importance of the Fourth of July.

First thing in the morning, Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were called out of the past for a press conference, answering questions from Maureen McGee-Ballinger as well as the audience. The first question from the audience came from a little girl wanting to know if the presidents knew any ghost stories, to which Jefferson replied, he did not have a ghost story, but he could tell some true stories that might be equally scary.

A man asked Lincoln if the Indians decided to build a big wall at the Mississippi River to keep immigrants out, would he be in favor of such things. He told the man that God Almighty already established a natural boundary with the Mississippi River, which kept many people in the east for a long time.

“However, the idea of two separate nations was impossible….There was a great influx of immigrants prior to my election from a country where people were impoverished and starving because of free trade being implemented. I am not in favor of free trade….But, the idea of immigration being used as a political football, I don’t think is right,” said Lincoln.

When asked about their favorite day as president, Roosevelt said there was not a day he didn’t enjoy while in office. He noted having his children with him, walking with Mrs. Roosevelt in the garden and fighting with senators while playing tennis.

Washington was asked about his wooden teeth and replied they were not made of wood.
“They were actually hippo ivory, and going for a century or more without cleaning, the hues of things I ate came out making the teeth look like wood,” said Washington.

The re-enactors for the press conference were as follows: Washington, Carl Closs; Jefferson, Tom Pitz; Roosevelt, Gib Young and Lincoln, Fritz Klein.

Later in the morning, a crowd gathered at the Grand View Terrace and watched a demonstration of hoop dancing by two-time World Champion dancer Jasmine Pickner. While her husband played the drum and sang, she picked up more and more hoops with her feet, holding them on her arms, legs and body and dancing to the music.

Pickner said, traditionally, hoop dancing has been a male activity, but she was taught how to dance by her father. It is an old tradition with images being seen on petroglyphs at the Wild Horse Sanctuary near Hot Springs. Hoops were originally made of willow and oak branches but now they are often made of PVC pipe.

Pickner has danced all over the country. She was in Deadwood where Kevin Costner held her two-month old baby while she danced, at the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institute, Library of Congress, and she was on Good Morning America. But her greatest honor was to dance when Muhammad Ali was in the audience. She gave him sweet grass to promote healing, and he kissed her on the cheek.

“I didn’t wash that cheek for days,” said Pickner.

Sequoia Crosswhite, a native flutist from the Cheyenne River Reservation, shared traditional music at the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village located off the Presidential Trail. Dressed in traditional regalia, he played the flute and talked with people during the day.

In the evening, following a welcome by Superintendent Cheryl A. Schreier, there was a ceremony for those who completed the Junior Ranger Program. Later, each of the presidential re-enactors spoke to the crowd, and the Face Vocal Band performed twice. After sunset, Darrell Red Cloud performed the Lakota Flag Song, and the National Anthem was played and sung to end the evening.