Saying the monument to Lt. Col. George Custer in Montana is like a statue of Hitler in Israel, an Indian activist announced plans to erect a protest monument to the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn.
The apparently illegal monument will be erected Saturday, said demonstration leader Russell Means.He told the Casper Star-Tribune that the tribes want to make a statement to the world about the Custer battlefield.
"Can you imagine a monument to Hitler in Israel? This country has monuments to the Hitlers of America in Indian country everywhere you go," Means said.
The Northern Cheyenne, the Arapahoe and the Lakota Nation of the Sioux are organizing the placement of the protest monument.
Dennis Ditmanson, superintendent of the Custer Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency, Mont., said Wednesday that the U.S. Park Service prohibits placement of monuments on Park Service land without agency approval.
He would not speculate whether the federal government will take any action to block the Indian monument.
Means said that in the past 16 years the Park Service has promised three times to initiate the process to erect a monument to the Indian warriors who vanquished the U.S. Army in Custer's famous Last Stand.
"Well, in Iroquoian tradition, three strikes and you are out," Means said.
He said he expects the government to find an excuse to try to block the Indians' plan to "put up a monument to their own heroes on their own land."
Means said the Indians know they face the possibility of arrest "and probably will be charged with the gross felony of attempting to put up a monument in Indian country to Indians."
Ditmanson said he has offered to work with Indian groups to get an Indian monument on the site, but it won't happen this year.
One of the groups involved in the demonstration, the Sioux Walks Far Society from the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana, has received a draft special use permit to use the Custer Monument site for a ceremony Saturday, Ditmanson said.
Means said that "by all human decency" the Custer Monument should be razed. The Indians' monument tentatively will be a 8-foot by 2-foot concrete block with a metal plaque. He said he hopes to put the protest monument in front of the Custer monument.