South Dakota governor will push for July 4 Rushmore fireworks despite federal denial

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Shawna Chen
·2 min read
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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) will continue her efforts to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks at Mount Rushmore despite the Biden administration's refusal to grant her request.

Why it matters: Noem's push to ensure the fireworks comes amid a number of concerns about coronavirus spread, wildfires and tribal sovereignty — the monument is carved into land sacred to the Lakota Sioux.

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What they're saying: Noem will do "everything in her ability" to move forward with her plan, the governor's Communications Director Ian Fury said in a statement to Axios.

  • Noem's office referenced President Biden's speech last week, in which he said there is a "good chance" Americans will be able to get together to celebrate Independence Day.

  • "The best place in America to hold such a special celebration would be Mount Rushmore, fireworks included," Fury said.

The other side: The National Park Service (NPS) denied Noem's request last Friday, citing potential risks regarding the health and safety of both the park and people.

  • The NPS added that many tribal partners "expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial," according to The Hill.

The big picture: Last year's Fourth of July celebration, which Noem hosted with former President Trump, included the first use of fireworks at the monument since 2009 — prior shows were always canceled due to wildfire concerns.

  • Noem, who said "we will not be social distancing" at the event, faced similar pushback.

  • A former fire management officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the region said the fireworks show were "ill advised" due to "extremely flammable" burning debris, embers and shells, per the Argus Leader.

Indigenous leaders deigned it a sign of disrespect. "We are now being forced to witness the lashing of our land with pomp, arrogance and fire hoping our sacred lands survive," Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, told USA Today in June.

  • Frazier went as far as calling for the monument's removal.

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