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Monday, February 21, 2011

Ben (Benjamin) Black Elk

I have often thought of the day I had my picture taken with Native American Indian, Ben Black Elk,  at Mt. Rushmore.  In my memory the stunningly beautiful visual impression of Ben Black Elk dimmed the impact of the president's faces carved in stone.  There was a cost for the photo, some small fee, but it was out of character for my parents to pay for something like that.  I remember their reluctance and caught a sense that their reluctance wasn't about money.  At the time it seemed strange to me that someone would pose for pictures, all across America my family had taken pictures- but we had stood in front of objects or nature, not people.  I knew something was unusual about this situation.

My father recently sent me some old pictures; and here is the picture from that day at Mt. Rushmore. Seeing it again I remember how hot it was, how unhappy I felt, and why my parents paid for me to have this picture taken.  It was to make me feel better- looking back I think it made me feel sad,  like it does now.  Even then I knew there was something in history very deep to grieve.

Known to many as the "Fifth Face on the Mountain," Ben Black Elk spent more than 20 years posing for tourists at the base of Mount Rushmore National Memorial from the late 1940s to the 1960s.

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