Trump’s Speech at Mt. Rushmore: The Bully at the Bully Pulpit

President Donald J. Trump delivered a speech on July 3, 2020 at the mountain formation which the people of the Oceti Sakowin (or “the Great Sioux Nation”) call “the Sixth Grandfather” (Tunkasila Sakpe Nake Kihe in the Lakota language). While watching Trump give that speech, I got the impression that he was attempting to shore up the standard narrative of “America.”

Perhaps Trump believes that America’s narrative is being threatened by the massive number of people who are pointing to the American empire’s imperial past of racism and domination, and condemning those same kinds of patterns in the contemporary life of the United States.

Photograph by Steven Newcomb
Four Anti-Indian U.S. Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and “Teddy Roosevelt”) in the He Sapa (“Black Hills”) in the Territory of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation.

In a prior post on this website (“Was the United States Founded As a Democracy?” May 17, 2020), I pointed out that the United States was founded as an Aristocracy by lawyers, bankers, slave owners, and those such as George Washington who had “land fever,” a contagion of greed based on a hunger for the lands and territories of Native nations. As one of the present day Artistocrats of the United States, Trump seems to suggest that America only has a virtuous history that needs to be extolled and upheld. Judging by his speech, the U.S. legacy of genocide committed against the original nations of this continent does not merit even the slighted mention.

In fact, during the fireworks display at the Sixth Grandfather (“Mt. Rushmore”) the Trump and administration and the Secretary of the Interior played the Irish song “Garryowen,” which was played by the U.S. Cavalry as they rode in on top of Indian villages, such as at the Washita River to attack Black Kettle’s village, to massacre Native women, children, babies, and men. I can’t help but wonder, while “Garryowen” was being blasted over the loudspeakers, did Trump’s chest swelled with pride while “Garryown” played. Did he think of bloody scenes such as the Wounded Knee Massacre and the American empire’s imposition of patterns of domination and dehumanization on “the merciless savages” in the name of “civilization,” “progress,” and “destiny.”

In his speech, Trump explicitly invoked “Manifest Destiny,” the Bible-premised idea of the Chosen People overrunning and taking possession of their continental inheritance as “an everlasting possession,” a “Promised Land” continent bequeathed to them by their land hungry “God.”

As Louis B. Wright put it in Culture on the Moving Frontier (1955): “The political doctrine of Manifest Destiny which played such an important part in westward expansion was a natural outgrowth of the Puritan belief that they were God’s chosen people. New Englanders, whether in the seventeenth century or in later periods, have always had a strong conviction of their divine calling to ‘improve’ the world.” (p. 32) A “divine” is a “calling” from a “God,” and according to that Image, the “God” of the Bible laid down for his “chosen” Christian people a destiny whereby the world of Christendom was mandated to impose the domination of the Christian empire on the world of heathendom.

The Granite mountain named “the Sixth Grandfather” by the people of the Oceti Sakowin (“the Great Sioux Nation”) is named “Mount Rushmore” by the self-described “chosen” American people. They saw themselves as “chosen” by their “God” to establish “His” domination over the “promised land” already inhabited by many other nations. Their “God” had better plans for the land than leaving it in the hands of the “godless heathen.” Trump apparently identifies with this way of thinking, for on August 25, 2018, he notable stated “I am the chosen one,” while looking toward the sky. Geez!

The “Mount Rushmore” memorial which depicts the faces of four anti-Indian U.S. presidents may appear to be “secular,” meaning non-religious, yet, in actuality, it is accurately looked at as an outgrowth of religious racism based on a providential theory of an empire of “God’s White American elect.” It is a religious shrine “for the Ages,” dedicated to four leaders of a system of White Christian domination.

Trump is the current Bully-in-Chief at the podium of the American Empire’s Bully Pulpit. He is perfect pitchman working at delivering a Sales Pitch for the Ages, Twighlight Zone style. He is a mouthpiece espousing the American values of domination and dehumanization throughout the globe in the name of Liberty and Justice for All and “the Rule of Law.”

This is not hyperbole on my part. Evidence of those American “values” is found in Trump’s commencement address, delivered to the graduating class of the U.S. Naval Academy in 2018. During that speech, Trump said: “We are witnessing the great awakening of the American spirit and of American might.” In a critically important passage that received no media attention that I noticed, Trump invoked the overrunning Native nations in the name of “settling of the frontier,: before he issued the Trump Doctrine of Global Domination:

“We’re sharpening the fighting edge from Marines infantry squads to combat ships to deliver maximum lethal force. The enemy has to know we have that. We are recommitting to this fundamental truth: We are a maritime nation. Being a maritime nation, we are surrounded by sea. We will always dominate that sea. We will always dominate the oceans.” (emphasis added) Wow. Trump’s vision pre-crown virus pandemic: American domination will extend anywhere and everywhere there are oceans on the planet.

American domination in the name of “the rule of law” is what we see when we look at those four anti-Indian presidents’ heads defacing the Sixth Grandfather. Yet there is a contradiction. According to the Fundamental Organic Law of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, “the utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians, and in the property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress.

On the basis of the Organic Law Framework of the Northwest Ordinance, the Black Hills and the defaced Sixth Grandfather are still to this day a rightful and continuing part of the territory of the Oceti Sakowin (the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation) pursuant to the Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868. This is the path less taken. The path of American domination based on the doctrine of the Christian discovery of non-Christian lands steadfastly ignores the original free and independent existence of the Oceti Sakowin.

The roots of the American Doctrine of Domination dates back to the genocide committed against the Guanches people in the Canary Islands and to the time of Columbus (“Cristobal Colon). “Equal Justice” under “The Law of Domination” was symbolized by Columbus in the form of a gallows with thirteen nooses.

Those gallows were used to hang Indians in an “equal” manner, in the number corresponding to Jesus and the twelve apostles. This is a symbol act of Christian domination par excellence. Another symbolic act was cutting the hands off of Native people who did not bring forth a “required” amount of gold. Yet another symbol consisted of hunting down and disemboweling Indians with vicious Mastiff dogs with steel jaws wearing armor plating.

These kinds of bloody scenes were an outgrowth of the “higher values” that Western Christendom brought to the location of the Old Worlds in the hemisphere that lay across the Atlantic Ocean far to the West of Europe. The hemisphere was only “New” to the invaders from the East. It was from these “values” of domination and dehumanization that America’s values emerged: “All men [but not women, slaves, and people of color] are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. . .”

But the Creator of “His” creature “Man” also sensibly saw fit to make some people who would be forever “less-than” his creature “Man.” According to the narrative, the “less-than people” were destined to serve the Creator’s creature “Man,” thereby enabling him to accumulate wealth and power. This, then, is some of the backdrop and historical context for the Trump administration playing “Garryown” and for President Trump’s speech at the Sixth Grandfather in the Black Hills (He Sapa), located in what is still today the territory of the Oceti Sakowin Nation.

-Steven Newcomb