In a tweet on Monday morning, President Donald Trump denied reports that he had ever suggested his likeness should be included alongside the four other presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore, but also said the idea was appealing to him.
A report from The New York Times this past weekend detailed several conversations between Trump and Gov. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) about Mount Rushmore over the past few years, including one in which the president described his “dream” to be on the monument.
“He said, ‘Kristi, come on over here. Shake my hand,’ and so I shook his hand,” Noem recounted. “And I said, ‘Mr. President, you should come to South Dakota sometime. We have Mount Rushmore.’ And he goes, ‘Do you know it’s my dream to have my face on Mount Rushmore?’”
“I started laughing. He wasn’t laughing, so he was totally serious,” Noem added.
Mount Rushmore sits on Indigenous lands that were stolen by the United States government.
In July of this year, according to the Times’s reporting, when Trump traveled to Mount Rushmore for July 4 celebrations, Noem greeted him in a private setting with an unusual presentation: a four-foot tall replica carving of the monument with his likeness included on it, according to a source with knowledge of the interaction.
The Times also reported that the White House had reached out to Noem about the possibility of adding Trump’s likeness to the mountain last year. According to the National Parks Service, there is no secure way to add a fifth face to the monument.
On Monday, Trump denied suggesting he should be on Mount Rushmore, but didn’t object to the idea.
“Never suggested it although, based on all of the many things accomplished during the first 3 1/2 years, perhaps more than any other Presidency, sounds like a good idea to me!” he wrote in a tweet.
However, in a campaign event in 2017, he told a crowd in Ohio that he wouldn’t ask them “whether or not you think I will someday be on Mount Rushmore” because the media would have criticized him for such remarks.
Many Indigenous groups and leaders spoke out this year when Trump made the trip to Mount Rushmore.
“The lands on which that mountain is carved and the lands he’s about to visit belong to the Great Sioux nation under a treaty signed in 1851 and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 and I have to tell [Trump] he doesn’t have permission from its original sovereign owners to enter the territory at this time,” Julian Bear Runner, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, said at the time.
“President Trump’s Fourth of July visit to Mt. Rushmore is a continuation of Indigenous resilience and history being erased from national dialogues,” The Indigenous Environmental Network said in a statement prior to Trump’s arrival. “This spectacle is nothing more than a reminder that settler colonialism is alive and well.”
And while some Americans view Mount Rushmore as an inspirational monument, the Lakota “see the faces of the men who lied, cheated, and murdered innocent people whose only crime was living on the land they [U.S. presidents] wanted to steal,” Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation Harold Frazier said.
Two separate treaties in the mid-1800s designated the area where Mount Rushmore is located as a reservation for the Sioux people, but after gold was discovered in the Black Hills, the federal government forced them to relinquish parts of the territory. In 1980, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the seizure of the land was illegal.