This episode features discussions of racism that some people may find disturbing. We advise caution for listeners under 13 fall 19 24, the trees were turning in South Dakota's Black Hills forest.
A bald headed historian named Don Robinson led a group of rookie horseback riders. They bobbed and groaned until Robinson stepped in front of a series of granite spires.
Robinson turned to the man beside him, a sculptor named Gutzon Borglum. Robinson expected Berglund's expression to change, but instead the man looked on in disgust and scoffed. Figures on those granite spikes would only look like misplaced totem poles. We will have to look farther for the next year.
Borglum scoured the Black Hills. He was looking for a place to carve his masterpiece, a giant sculpture to honor the spirit of the American West.
He needed the perfect piece of granite, one that would catch the morning sunlight in the most ethereal way. Finally, he set his sights on the perfect 400 foot bluff.
Borglum believed there was no piece of granite comparable to it in the United States, and the Native Americans who'd once own the land would have agreed.
The untouched mountain was known to the Sioux people as the six grandfathers, a divine rock named after the ancestral spirits who appeared to a Lakota medicine man in a vision.
Now, Borglum would transform their sacred granite with engravings of the men who'd betrayed them with his construction of Mount Rushmore. Welcome to Conspiracy Theories, a PA cast original every Monday and Wednesday, we dig into the complicated stories behind the world's most controversial events and search for the truth. I'm Carter Roy. And I'm Molly Brandenberg. And neither of us are conspiracy theorists, but we are open minded, skeptical and curious.
Don't get us wrong. Sometimes the official version is the truth, but sometimes it's not. You can find episodes of conspiracy theories and all other Parkhurst originals for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts to stream conspiracy theories for free on Spotify. Just open the app and type conspiracy theories in the search bar. This is our first of two episodes on Mount Rushmore. The national landmark, which took 14 years to complete, is still a popular tourist destination in South Dakota's Black Hills Forest.
This episode will cover the controversial history behind the landmark, as well as its grueling construction process. We'll also examine the contentious artist behind the project. Gutzon Borglum next episode will explore a few conspiracy theories involving the Black Hills Forest and the secret chamber that's hidden inside the Mount Rushmore monument. We have all that and more coming up.
Stay with us. Every year, roughly three million people flock to Black Hills, South Dakota, to ogle Mount Rushmore, spanning 60 feet from chin to hairline. The stoic faces of four American presidents loom George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. But the breathtaking masterpiece is more than a work of art. Some see it as an emblem of the United States. Sordid past the Black Hills mountain range was home to the Sioux Lakotas beginning in the mid 16th century.
European settlers honored and respected their land through the following century. In the 1950s, the United States government considered the Black Hills area permanent Indian country.
It helped that some believe this land was unfit for civilization. They suggested the territory was hostile for outsiders because of its terrain and its inhabitants. But those rumors didn't keep white prospectors from searching for gold and other valuable minerals. In the 1960s, outsiders slowly encroached on the Black Hills region.
Hungry gold miners invaded native hunting grounds. They intimidated the Lakota tribes with the brutal force. The white men destroyed herds of bison, a valuable food supply for sport. The Lakota starved as they were unable to hunt or safely reach their crops.
Eventually, the tribes had no choice but to retaliate. This led to a series of ugly battles that the American government needed to address.
The U.S. Army tried to keep the peace between prospectors and the natives, but the cost of deploying and maintaining troops racked up quickly. These soldiers cost the government two million dollars per month, about thirty two million dollars.
Today, lawmakers needed a better solution to keep the peace and lower financial costs. The government signed a treaty with the Sioux and Arapaho tribes.
In 1868, the Fort Laramie Treaty officially established the Great Sioux Reservation, granting the Native Americans exclusive use of the land west of the Missouri River.
The agreement banned white settlement in the region forever. The reservation also couldn't be sold or traded unless 75 percent of the men in each tribe agreed to it. However, the government didn't abide by the terms of this agreement for long, especially when there was a profit to be made.
At this point, rumors of gold in the Black Hills were still just that rumors.
No one had definitely found the mineral in the area.
Once the United States banned private prospectors they thought they'd see for themselves.
In 1874, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer led the Black Hills expedition on paper. Their goal was to scout locations for a new military fought and officially, Custer was searching for gold on the government's behalf.
Custer was accompanied by newspaper reporters, photographers, geologists, professional miners, even a botanist. Only a few days into this trip, Custer said he found gold among the roots of the grass.
His crew was quick to spread the news. Publications across the country confirm the reports of gold in the Black Hills, which was enough to send miners, treasure hunters and average Joes scrambling to sue land.
Lawless towns that epitomized the Wild West sprang up in the region. Deadwood, South Dakota, became a hub for gambling, saloons and stagecoach robberies.
The chaotic culture attracted iconic frontiersmen like Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock, all there to claim their piece of the American treasure. In 1875, politicians tried to repurchase the Black Hills reservation from the Sioux tribes, but they refused every offer. In turn, President Ulysses S. Grant ordered his troops to turn a blind eye to prospectors who searched the hills for gold. They stopped offering protection to the native residents. Instead, they did the opposite, with the government secretly awarding bounties for the tribesmen.
The 300 million ahead, that's about 7000 dollars.
Today, President Grant claimed he feared for the safety of the white Americans, but they were the ones encroaching on the natives promised land. Ultimately, Grant just wanted a reason to declare war against the indigenous people, and he found a devious way to force them off of their ancestral home.
In the winters, the Sioux camped in Yellowstone and Powder River Valley in Wyoming, these locations had better hunting grounds. But in December 1875, President Grant ordered the tribes to return to the Black Hills reservation immediately. He knew that this was impossible during the harsh winter and it could lead to starvation once the native people refused the order. Grant and his troops felt they had grounds to attack. They plan their ambush for the next summer. But the Native Americans had secret intel.
In late spring, the Sioux had their annual Sundance. The ritual included an offering of prayers to the great spirit meant to elevate the tribe to a higher spiritual plane. During the ceremony, Lakota tribal leader Sitting Bull experienced a divine vision.
Later, Sitting Bull described what he'd seen soldiers riding upside down into camp, falling off their horses and dying before they could attack. He added that none of their bodies had ears because white men never listen.
Sitting Bull's vision came to pass in June 1876. He and Lakota war leader Crazyhorse faced General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Custer was extremely outnumbered. The Native Americans massacred Custer and his 7th Cavalry, killing everyone and everything except for a few army horses.
Unfortunately, the American government didn't back down. Numerous battles followed in the Sioux tribe never won another victory.
The next month, President Grant presented a new treaty again. It called for the Native Americans to give up the Black Hills.
Grant didn't allow any tribesmen who had fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn to sign. And if any approved signatories refused, they'd no longer receive food and provisions from the government, which many tribes relied upon. The government also threatened to take all of their weapons and horses if they didn't comply. Essentially, the zoo had two options hand over the reservation or starve, even so, only one tenth the tribe signed the treaty, which Congress swiftly approved.
That's far fewer than the three fourths legally required for the measure to pass over the next 12 years.
The government forced the zoo to evacuate the Black Hills. Politicians then divided the native land amongst the tribe's enemies.
In the early nineteen, hundreds of white Americans and their businesses expanded westward.
This included Hanie Peake, Tin Mining New York company. They sent their lawyer, Charles Rushmore, to scout the Black Hills.
Rushmore couldn't help but be charmed by a large granite mountain that loomed over the Ponderosa pines like Zus. Peering down from Mount Olympus, Rushmore asked his guide if the mountain had a name, but the guide wasn't sure.
In reality, the natives called it the six grandfathers. Asou medicine man named Nicholas Black Elk had given the Bluff its title a century and a half earlier.
Elk said the name was inspired by a vision where he saw six sacred directions north, south, east, west, above and below. He said these directions represented a deeper understanding of love, kindness and wisdom, the same qualities you might find in a grandfather.
Rushmore's guide didn't know any of this, so he told the wealthy Mogel the mountain had never had a name. Then the guide proposed. They call it Mount Rushmore in this lawyer's meaningless honor.
Just like that, the last traces of the Sioux culture disappeared from the Black Hills like ash in the wind.
This loss led to a chapter of economic growth for settlers of the new businesses in the area inspired South Dakota's state historian Don Robinson to attract more tourists. He believed that a giant art piece in the South Dakota mountains would be a captivating draw.
Robinson specifically wanted the work to honor significant American heroes, early settlers and Native Americans alike. So he found the most inspiring location in the Black Hills. It was called The Needles, a set of smooth granite spindles that sliced through the sky.
Robinson could already envision it. Thousands of people flocking to the state to admire his American landmark except the artist he hired had more controversial ideas. Coming up, Robinson hires a member of the Ku Klux Klan to bring his vision to life. Before we get back to the show, I want to introduce a new Spotify original from our cast called Incredible Feats. It's a short daily podcast hosted by comedian Dan Cumins every weekday. Dan explores an account of physical strength, mental focus or bizarre behavior that's sure to leave at least some of you in pure disbelief.
But there's no question these unbelievable stories are all true, like the 350 mile nonstop run of Dean car, NASA's back in 2005 and Jose Salvador Alvarenga. Extraordinary tale of survival at sea. And let's not forget Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel. Incredible feats covers people and events that pushed boundaries, broke records and revealed new sources of all its offbeat entertainment that will send your mind reeling. So don't miss out.
Follow incredible feats free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Now back to the story. In the early 20th century, European capitals overran former Native American land, they profited off resources they'd stolen from the Sioux Lakota. But this wasn't enough for state historian Don Robinson. He hoped to attract tourism by building a patriotic monument in the Black Hills mountains around 1924.
Robinson's search for the perfect artist to make his vision come to life. He came across an article on Stone Mountain, a monument constructed just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Robinson immediately took interest in the enigmatic sculptor who'd spearheaded Stone Mountain. His name was Gutzon Borglum.
Borglum came from a family of Danish Mormon polygamists in Idaho in the 1980s. Borglum moved to Europe to study sculpture art. He was enamored with the colossal masterpieces that the Egyptians and Greeks had constructed, specifically the Sphinx of Giza and the guardians of Mellman's temple along the Nile when Borglum returned to the United States.
He established his first studio in New York City. There, he sculpted statues of former leaders and American heroes, helping to give them the same ethereal essence as the antiquities of Europe. One of his most famous pieces was a bust of Abraham Lincoln. Today, it's on display inside the Capitol building. Aside from his refined skills, people knew Borglum for his imperious personality. He was arrogant, prone to fits of rage and overly dramatic, especially when it came to his work.
On top of that, he was extremely racist. In 1915, a Confederate group called the United Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned Borglum for a colossal endeavor. They wanted him to carve a Confederate homage in Stone Mountain Park, Georgia.
The tableau, spanning over 60000 square feet, featured Confederate figures like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson riding into battle. The infamous Ku Klux Klan provided the majority of the project's funding. The Klan, of course, was a white supremacist hate group that targeted nearly everyone who was different from them, including the Jewish and black communities.
Stone Mountain was more than just a representation of these ideals. It was where the Klan was revived decades earlier.
In the 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant had condemned and prosecuted Klansmen. The domestic terrorist group essentially dissolved.
Then in 1915, American director D.W. Griffith released Birth of a Nation, a film glorifying the late Klan. It drummed up interest in the defunct organization, and the ceremony to resurrect the Ku Klux Klan took place on top of Stone Mountain at the end of that year, while the monument was still under construction.
Gutzon Borglum attended the ceremony that evening not as an artist, but as a member.
Borglum claimed he joined the Klan to gain more power and influence over the project, but over time he ascended to the highest levels of the society. Historians believe he was even involved in a nefarious plot to elect a Klansman to the White House.
It's unclear if Dohnt Robinson knew all this and turned a blind eye. Either way, Maugham's dedication to Stone Mountain inspired Robinson enough to reach out.
In 1924, Robinson sent a telegram to Borglum asking if he would design his sculpture. Warned him that they had not yet secured funding but felt confident they could raise the money.
Borglum replied that he was very interested and would come to Black Hills by September, when the two finally met.
Robinson told Borglum about his vision. He hoped to dedicate the sculpture to a few Western heroes, people like Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, the Sioux leader, Red Cloud and General Custer.
Borglum had other ideas. She believed that only former American presidents were worthy of towering over Black Hills. It didn't take much persuading to get Robinson on board with his plan.
Borglum told Robinson that if he wanted to attract people from all over the world, they should display four familiar characters, men who everyone would consider a hero, at least according to Borglum.
In Boredoms words, the four men he chose symbolized the founding growth, preservation and development of the United States. They represented the principles that were supposed to make the country great unifiers that all Americans could idolize.
He selected George Washington to represent the arduous road to independence, Thomas Jefferson to commemorate the country's westward expansion and economic growth.
Abraham Lincoln symbolized American unity and equality for all, and Theodore Roosevelt signified the promise and future of the nation.
Unfortunately, these presidents legacies didn't match up with those principles. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both owned slaves. Lincoln approved a military order for 38 Native American warriors to be hanged during the U.S. DeCota war of 1862. And Roosevelt once publicly supported Philip Sheridan statement that the only good Indian is a dead Indian. Nonetheless, Robinson praised Berglund's idea, and he was eager to show the sculptor the site he chosen for the project.
When Robinson and Borglum arrived at the needles, Borglum was less than impressed. The thin granite spires didn't provide enough surface space for the grandeur of his vision.
Robinson again cave to Borglum suggestions and allowed him to scour the Black Hills in search of a better rock. It would be another year before Borglum found what he was looking for a 500 foot mountain natives called the six grandfathers.
Robinson loved the new location, but he had to defend the decision to city officials and the local press, many were disappointed to hear it was on a roadless area of the Black Hills, making it difficult for people to visit.
Others had ethical qualms with the project.
In November 1924, journalist Cora Johnson for The Hot Springs Star wrote a piece on Robinson's pet project. She argued that the natural landscape of the Black Hills was enough of a draw.
The park didn't need juvenile ornamentation to attract visitors. To her, the monument was nothing more than an act of machismo. She promised her readers she'd do whatever she could to halt the project. Robinson publicly attacked Johnson over her remarks. He claimed that God only makes a Michelangelo or a Gutzon Borglum once in a thousand years. He felt all citizens of South Dakota should be grateful to live within close proximity to Berglund's masterpiece.
And yet the press sided with Johnson. This presented a major problem for Robinson, who needed private donations to fund the project.
In the 1920s, South Dakota was very underpopulated. Unlike the big cities on the East Coast, many Dakotans were low to middle class workers without disposable income.
Nonetheless, Borglum and Robinson hosted a dinner party in the fall of 1925 to see what they could squeeze out of local businessmen. Surely everyone would want to say they'd helped finance an American monument.
Borglum stood during the meal to say he and Robinson needed 50000 dollars. That's close to 750000 dollars today.
Not only did the businessmen scoff at Berglund's demands, they were insulted. There was no way their hard earned money was going to this Egomaniacs Passion Project. It certainly didn't help that reporter Conrad Johnson had won over most of South Dakota by the end of 1925, she'd rallied an impressive force against the project, deeming it fiscally irresponsible and a devastating blow to the state's environment. Any locals who wanted to contribute were terrified that Johnson would expose them. Even donations from outside South Dakota were hard to get.
Thanks to Berglund's brutish reputation, a Georgia newspaper told readers that he was trying to secure funds to destroy another mountain.
By 1926, Don Robinson had only raised 5000 dollars for the project, about 73000 dollars today, not nearly enough to employ the 400 man crew he needed, let alone buy the materials for years of construction.
Borglum, on the other hand, refused to be discouraged. His ego assured him that the money would come from somewhere. In the meantime, he remortgaged his home to start preproduction on Mount Rushmore. Borglum drafted up his preliminary plans without consideration for his budget. He wanted each face to be six stories tall. In fact, he wanted the engravings to go all the way down to each president's waist.
He also made plans for a 120 foot tablet that would include the history of the country. And he wanted roads to the site. Lookout points from various angles and the grand staircase that would weave up to the president's faces. One of Borglum most critical demands was an on site studio. It had stunning views of the six grandfathers that helped Borglum create a scale model of the monument. Borglum also used a compilation of portraits and photographs of each president to reincarnate them in stone.
The replica was impressive in itself, standing close to 15 feet tall. But until Borglum had more funding, a scale model was as far as he'd get. That is, until a presidential visit to South Dakota changed people's minds.
In 1927, the news of Mount Rushmore peaked President Calvin Coolidge as interest. He decided the Black Hills forest was the perfect place for his family's summer vacation.
Citizens in the Black Hills area were overcome with patriotic pride.
If Coolidge was excited about Mount Rushmore, perhaps other celebrities and politicians would take interest in it as well.
Coolidge's support for the monument changed people's minds. The project received an influx of donations. By the time the president arrived that summer, Borglum had raised 42000 dollars for the project, equal to more than half a million dollars.
Today, during a private moment between Coolidge and Borglum, the president asked who was financing the work. Borglum replied. These farmers are paying for it.
Coolidge was taken aback. He knew that local citizens weren't in a place to pay for Maugham's art project, nor should they be asked to. The commander in chief told Borglum to visit him. When he returned to Washington, he'd put together some federal funding for the monument.
Meanwhile, Borglum cash the few checks he'd received from private donors, which were enough to get the project up and running. He was confident that the money from Coolidge would come through. And on October 4th, 1927, Borglum was ready to turn on the jackhammers.
Coming up, 400 men risked their lives in the arduous construction of Mount Rushmore.
Now back to the story. By 1927, sculptor Gutzon Borglum and South Dakota state historian Don Robinson had raised 42000 dollars to carve Mt. Rushmore during a visit to the site. President Coolidge promised additional government funding. This was all Borglum needed to hear to start staffing his monumental endeavor. The hiring process immediately proved difficult. Borglum had high expectations for the men working alongside him. The job required experience with jackhammers and dynamite, since many of the applicants were farmers and blacksmiths local to the area.
These skills were hard to find. More importantly, the candidate needed guts if he were to scale a 500 foot mountain at the start of each day.
Over time, Borglum lowered his expectations. Robinson assured him that all they needed were able bodied individuals willing to hang off the side of a mountain.
Each shift required 30 men. Blacksmiths fix the tools and drill bits. Dynamite experts blasted out large sections of granite drillers and carvers made the more detailed etchings in stone.
Some men operated the cables attached to each worker. Borglum even hired kids he referred to as cowboys to shout messages up and down the mountain. Borglum also built a tram so employees and equipment could travel up and down the hillside.
Some men never made it. Past day one, the mountain was extremely windy, constantly kicking up dirt and rock, and the prospect of wielding a 50 pound jackhammer while strapped to an inch thick cable was too much for some to handle. But most men swallowed their fears in favor of a large paycheck.
Maugham's crew worked exclusively off the scale model he'd constructed. They took hundreds of measurements and multiplied them by twelve. Then they used red paint to dry each president's features.
The workmen carved George Washington first. The team used dynamite to sculpt out the general shape of Washington's head. Then they used a method called Honeycomb to remove the smaller pieces with precision and control.
This ensured that critical features like Washington's nose didn't completely fall off his face. They could take stone away, but they couldn't put it back together.
As time went on, the job became more difficult. The workers, tools, supplies and patience ran thin, as did the project's finances. Luckily, President Coolidge kept his word. Just after Christmas 1928, Congress finally agreed to give Mt. Rushmore 250000 dollars, close to four million dollars today.
This was under the pretense that no guest would ever have to pay to visit the monument.
However, there was one other stipulation. If Borglum needed more money in the future, the government would only match the funds from outside investors.
But Borglum wasn't worried. They figured this was more than enough to get the job done.
The cash influx stoked higher morale amongst the workers. A huge government grant helped these men recognize that this was more than just an art project. They were building history.
Meanwhile, Borglum loomed like a hawk over the production, trying to maintain as much creative control as possible. No one knew what side of the volatile Borglum they'd get each day. Sometimes he'd stop men for a cigarette and a friendly chat. Other days he'd fire someone because he didn't like what they were wearing.
He even canned his secretary on more than one occasion. But he always asked her back the following day.
But there were more serious dangers at Mount Rushmore than Gutzon Borglum. At one point in the early 1930s, five workers boarded the tram at the top of the mountain. Another grueling workday was done and they were eager to get home. They were headed down with their heavy jackhammers when a cable snapped on the car.
The tram plummeted to the bottom of the mountain as the other workers watched helplessly.
One of the men aboard the tram jumped to save himself. He landed on the nearby rocks, suffering a broken arm and a few shattered ribs.
Another slid a piece of wood under the wheel of the track. The tram slowed down just enough that it gingerly stopped on its own.
Luckily, this incident was one of a kind, and the next day it was back to business as usual.
And finally, in July 1930, the men saw their hard work and dedication pay off. Borglum and his team unveiled George Washington's face to the public. Journalists from all over the country flocked to see it.
Newspapers sang Borglum praises. That year, the good press inspired more than 27000 people to visit Borglum so-called Shrine of democracy.
The project wasn't even close to complete. They still had to car. Former presidents faces all their bodies and the tablet detailing the United States history.
Borglum felt confident he could finish the entire monument by 1934. But the biggest economic disaster in American history would take Mt. Rushmore down with it.
The Great Depression hit South Dakota's working class people hard. The Dust Bowl in the 1930s left the few struggling to keep their livelihoods devastated. Extreme drought made it impossible for farmers to grow crops in the area. Since agriculture was one of the leading markets in the Black Hills, many people moved elsewhere for work.
Meanwhile, Maugham's funds dwindled. With the economic crisis at play. Outside, investors were no longer willing to sink their money into the project. Without these private investments, the government wouldn't grant Borglum additional cash. So in 1932, construction ground to a halt. Luckily for Borglum, this proved to be temporary. He had a fan in South Dakota, Governor turned State Senator Peter Norbeck Norbeck took great pride in what Mount Rushmore had done for South Dakota's economy. He used his power and influence to secure permanent funding.
After some negotiations, President Hoover agreed to give the project another 100000 dollars on Norbeck. Had to do was turn the Black Hills Forest into a national park. This way, Borglum could siphon even more money out of the park protection funds.
It was a win win, but Borglum was less than pleased with this arrangement. He told Robinson in Norbeck that he hated being under the watchful eye of the government. Unfortunately, if Borglum wanted to see his project completed, he didn't have another choice.
Borglum also needed extra help on the project, someone he could trust in 1934. He invited his 22 year old son, Lincoln, to help oversee construction workers, found Lincoln to be a wonderful Go-Between. Unlike his father, Lincoln never got upset with the employees. In fact, he praised them constantly, thanking them for their dedication to his father's legacy.
Borglum groomed Lincoln to take over many of the day to day tasks. This freed his schedule up to focus on other, more secretive plans for Mt. Rushmore.
While the Carvers put the finishing touches on Washington, Borglum was in his studio drafting another feature, a hidden chamber.
The entryway was on a cliff directly behind Abraham Lincoln's head, and nobody knew what the secret tunnels inside the mountain contained.
Borglum spent so much time designing this chamber that he neglected to prevent more immediate issues in 1934. The crew began carving Thomas Jefferson to the left of George Washington. But 18 months in, they faced unsolvable problems.
They hit faulty rock. The stone crumbled too easily, causing large critical pieces to fall away. By the time they were finished, there wasn't enough stone left to carve Jefferson's features.
Borglum had to move Jefferson to the right of Washington, shifting the entire design. Now, Abraham Lincoln's head was where the historical plaque was supposed to be.
Borglum had to scrap the tablet idea due to the lack of space, but he took every challenge in stride. In 1936, his team completed the second president, Thomas Jefferson. They finished Lincoln's face. The following year. Teddy Roosevelt followed in 1939, and sometime between 1938 and 1939, Borglum started construction on his secret chamber. He blasted a 70 foot tunnel into the side of the mountain.
When Congress caught wind of boardgames unapproved plans, they told him he needed to focus on finishing the president's first. Borglum agreed to put the side project away for now, but World War Two kept him from progressing much further. When the United States joined the battle, Congress could no longer justify giving taxpayer money to an art project. Whether the funds came from the Park Service or not.
Berglund's dreams of finishing the president's busts were dashed, and his plan for a secret chamber was allegedly scrapped with them.
On March 6th, 1941, months before Borglum Cash ran out, he passed away. He had died from surgery complications at the age of 73. Borglum son, Lincoln, did what he could to finalize the work until Congress shut the operation down on Halloween of that year.
After fourteen years, the construction of Mount Rushmore came to an end.
The project cost close to one million dollars, total about seventeen point five dollars million today. Eighty five percent of this cash came from taxpayers.
Surprisingly, no single workman died during the construction of Mount Rushmore, a marvel in itself. But the construction did cause some adverse health effects. Most of the workers breathed hazardous particles called silica dust, which caused a few to eventually die of lung disease.
At least those men got to see the final product of their hard work. Unlike Gutzon Borglum, they may have considered Mount Rushmore incomplete. But Robinson's.
Vision of a patriotic monument was fulfilled, unfortunately, to the Sioux tribes that had lived there before, it was a constant looming reminder of the injustices that still plague them in 1971.
The members of the American Indian Movement, or AME, hope to right the wrongs of U.S. history. AME was an organization that helped Native Americans by addressing systemic issues in their society, like poverty, police brutality and unemployment.
In June, AME occupied Mt. Rushmore for 13 weeks. They demanded that the United States government honor the Treaty of 1868 and return the land back to the Sioux tribes.
Ten years later, they were finally heard. In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sioux tribes and admitted that the Black Hills had been illegally revoked.
But they also claimed it would be impossible to return the park after all this time. Instead, they offered a 102 million dollar reparation payment, which the Sioux repeatedly have declined after more than 30 years of accumulated interest. The payment that still sits in the trust is now valued at one billion dollars. Accepting the money would mean there would be no hope of the Sioux ever regaining their land.
Some people believe the US government won't hand over the park because of deeper secrets they need to protect, and that the hidden passages in Mount Rushmore serve additional purposes.
Next time, we'll explore some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Monument and Black Hills National Forest like conspiracy theory. Number one, the Black Hills are a hotbed for UFOs and other paranormal phenomena, and Congress is keeping it under wraps.
Conspiracy theory number two. The United States government had plans to utilize Borglum secret chamber as a doomsday bunker.
And conspiracy theory number three, the chamber holds some of the country's greatest treasures and is meant to serve as a time capsule for future civilizations. Millions of people visit Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills each year. They stare up into the stoic faces of history's most influential leaders. Except Boredoms masterpiece may be nothing more than a distraction from what the government is really hiding.
Thanks for tuning in to conspiracy theories. We'll be back with Part two to explore the theories surrounding Mount Rushmore. You can find all episodes of conspiracy theories and all other cast originals for free on Spotify.
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Conspiracy Theories was created by Max Cutler and his Apricus Studio's original. It is executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Russell Nash with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Bruce Kaktovik. This episode of Conspiracy Theories was written by Lori Gottlieb with writing assistance by Ali Whicker and stars Molly Brandenberg and Carter Roy. Remember to follow incredible feats, four mind reeling stories of strength, focus and achievement, comedian and podcast Dan Cummins hosts bringing his signature humor to these extreme accounts.
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