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California man submits proposal to rename Mount Rushmore to Lakota Sioux name of ‘Igmu Tanka Paha’


California man submits proposal to rename Mount Rushmore to its Lakota Sioux name of ‘Igmu Tanka Paha’, or Cougar Mountain

  • A California resident proposed renaming Mount Rushmore to Igmu Tanka Paha
  • The term is a Lakota Sioux name that means Cougar Mountain 
  • The suggestion was submitted in July to the Board on Geographic Names 
  • It would only apply to the mountain – not the national monument
  • A name change is unlikely, and would require overwhelming public support 
  • Representative Dusty Johnson has introduced a bill protecting the existing name

By Harriet Alexander For

Published: | Updated:

A man from California has submitted a proposal to rename Mount Rushmore, in a highly-unlikely bid to recognize the Native American people of South Dakota.

The anonymous man is seeking the renaming of the mountain Igmu Tanka Paha – a Lakota Sioux name meaning Cougar Mountain. 

His bid came after Barack Obama in 2015 officially renamed Mount McKinley as Denali – ending a controversy that had raged for over 100 years.

Yet the current proposal, made in July, seems highly unlikely to gain traction.

The Board on Geographic Names, which decides any renaming, is usually conservative and would only respond in the case of overwhelming public support. 

A proposal has been submitted to rename Mount Rushmore with a Lakota Sioux term

Dusty Johnson is working to preserve the original name of the South Dakota site

Furthermore, the bid has already been blocked by a South Dakotan congressman, Dusty Johnson, who introduced a bill to Congress that would protect the existing name. The Board will not vote on a name change that is currently being debated by Congress – even if Congress never formally votes on the bill.

‘The overwhelming number of South Dakotans, probably well above 90 per cent, want to keep Mount Rushmore the way it is,’ Johnson said. 

Jennifer Runyon, a senior researcher with the board, told TribLive that any name change was highly unlikely.

She further explained that the national memorial of Mount Rushmore could never have its name changed; only the mountain on which it sits.

‘We had to remind him, fair enough, you want to propose a change to Mt. Rushmore,’ she said. 

‘We’re not talking about the national (memorial).’

Construction begins on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota in 1929

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum is seen working on a draft for the Mount Rushmore design

Workers are seen chiseling the head of Jefferson in around 1940

The mountain and the memorial are named after Charles E. Rushmore, a New York attorney who came to South Dakota in 1894. 

The Lakota name Igmu Tanka Paha means Cougar Mountain, while an alternative Lakota name, Tunkasila Sakpe Paha, means Six Grandfathers Mountain because of the summit’s six prominent outcrops. 

It is also known, the Board says, as Butcher’s Hill and Slaughterhouse Mountain.

Johnson previously submitted another bill designed to protect the monument, amid a re-evaluation of historic figures.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are all carved on to the side of the mountain – and Donald Trump has even joked that he should be carved there too.

Johnson said the four ex-presidents were not perfect men, but he believes the monument stands for the nation’s highest ideals. 

‘We do see quite a push nationally, and all over, to do things like take down statues, sometimes with violence and sometimes with a more deliberate process,’ he said. 

‘Mount Rushmore does represent our country’s attempts to get better. 

‘It is focused on equality, and what brings our country together rather than what divides us.’


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