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Don’t Make the Capitol a Rushmore Knock-Off; Focus on South Dakota Heritage

Because Kristi needs a campaign slogan to get more national attention, our Governor is soliciting donations online to festoon our Capitol dome with recastings of Mount Rushmore:

"Capitol Freedom" fundraising page,, screen cap 2020.08.25.
“Capitol Freedom” fundraising page,, screen cap 2020.08.25.

Just days after her chief of staff informed a state oversight panel about the concept, Governor Kristi Noem on Monday launched a fundraising effort to put statues of four presidents on the dome of the South Dakota Capitol.

Her fundraising message on Twitter sent viewers to a web page that said the money would be put in a special account with the South Dakota Community Foundation. The slogan for what the governor calls the South Dakota Freedom Project is, “While other states are tearing down statues, South Dakota is putting them up.”

Noem wants to install within the dome’s outside alcoves replicas of the men who appear on Mount Rushmore National Memorial at Keystone in western South Dakota: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt [Bob Mercer, “Governor Has Started Fundraising to Put Rushmore Likenesses on S.D. Capitol Dome,” KELO-TV, 2020.08.24].

Hey! You can’t stuff freedom in an alcove! You might as well gag the Rushmore gang with medical masks! Come on, Kristi, think bigger:

Rushmore Singing Statutes atop South Dakota Capitol: A Proposal
Capitol Freedom, artist’s rendition, 2020.08.25.

Rig up the old Mount Rushmore mascots with animatronics, install some Billy Bass songboxes and motion detectors, and let the Four Capitol Tops sing every time patriots walk by! Bonus: give the Governor’s bodyguards audio override apps so when they spot protestors approaching the Capitol, they can sing “Sweet Home South Dakota” real loud to scare those hippies away!

But wait a minute: Governor Noem’s chief of staff, the statuesque Tony Venhuizen, just announced this Dome-decking last Friday and told the Capitol Complex Restoration and Beautification Commission that the project is only in the discussion stage. It would still need the commission’s approval.

Yet Kristi is already out taking money for a project that hasn’t even been blueprinted, let alone approved by the proper authorities.

Noem’s Dead Presidents on the Dome project is a tacky publicity stunt. Her inspiration, Mount Rushmore, was itself conceived as a tourist attraction. Historian Doane Robinson originally imagined explorers and icons of the American West carved into the Black Hills, but sculptor Gutzon Borglum pushed for national historical figures to draw more visitors.

The Capitol isn’t a tourist attraction; it is the People’s House, our Temple of Democracy, the seat of South Dakota’s civic greatness. Much as we respect our nation’s great historical figures, the South Dakota Capitol should celebrate South Dakota capital—human capital, the great South Dakota pioneers and visionaries and daring-doers who have toiled on this land to make South Dakota all that it is.

The Capitol and the surrounding grounds do a pretty good job of that now, with lots of statuary representations of the labors and sacrifices South Dakotans have made. If we must have a few more statues (and I’ll admit, now that Tony mentions them, I wonder if those high-up alcoves were designed for such insertions), let that bronze and stone capture great figures unique to our soil, our history. Let our Capitol tell our story, South Dakota’s story, a story visitors won’t hear anywhere else.

For the South Dakota Capitol, forget Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. Give us Norbeck, Mundt, Kneip, and McGovern! Raise high the likenesses of Sister Margaret, Judge Meierhenry, Senator Pyle, and Suffragette Simmons! Station Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Big Foot, and Black Elk over our leaders to admonish our excesses and remind us from whom we stole this land and to whom we owe our peaceful prairie lives.

Don’t cheapen the Capitol, Kristi. Enrich it with honor where honor is due, to the South Dakotans who built the Capitol and the state it represents.


  1. mike from iowa 2020-08-25 19:24

    Why not a list of the people of South Dakota who have died because of ineffective, nay, incompetent leadership on pandemic virus?

  2. Buckobear 2020-08-25 19:38

    When asked who was her favorite Mt Rushmorite, Kristi answered (in her best Prairie Palin voice), “all of them.”
    Bet she wants to use the Covid $$ to do it.
    Better yet, put up a patriotic statue staring thru a window of the official, unfenced, residence.

  3. Bill Kennedy 2020-08-25 19:43

    What a bunch of BS ! Like said in a previous post, if it should ever be done, it should be someone from the state or tribes. I hope that nothing gets done, as I feel our Capitol looks very dignified as it is. She is getting her fence, it would seem she should be satisfied.

  4. o 2020-08-25 20:09

    I believe Stave Bannon is available to help with the fundraising (and spending). Now that his Build the Wall scam seems to have met it’s end, there must be another way to reach into conservatives’ pockets for self enrichment.

    The party of P. T. Barnum.

  5. Debbo 2020-08-25 20:55

    Watch out! She’ll find a way to get Crazy Creep’s orange face up there.

  6. Loren 2020-08-25 21:00

    Let’s just cut to the pandering chase and propose a gold statue of Donald on top of the dome watching over his SD flock. It would be the perfect tribute from the Snow Queen and sure to get us that “national recognition” she so craves. !@#%^&*

  7. jerry 2020-08-25 21:06

    o, Steve Bannon, EB5 Short Rounds and Joop could head up the scheme to fleece the public. Toss in some verbiage from Vladimir Thune and you have the fearless foursome.
    Meanwhile, for a measly million bucks in taxes, we have this.

    “Seventy-seven COVID-19 cases from out-of-state residents who apparently contracted the virus at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that ran from Aug. 7 to 16 have been identified, bringing the total to 114 COVID-19 cases from the rally.

    The Department of Health reported 37 coronavirus cases among state residents related to the rally on Monday. Spokesman Derrick Haskins said in an email Tuesday that the department’s next update would be Thursday.” Rapid City Journal 8.25.20

  8. jerry 2020-08-25 21:16

    Wall Drug’s animatronics could fit the bill and as a bonus, they are big GNOem supporters so a freebe. “Some people say I’m a no account”

    My gwaaad, you’re right Cory, you can’t make this stuff up. Funding the South Dakota Wall and the Singing Cowboys on the Dome along with Chubby trump as the fifth wheel, gonna have to reinforce the dome. Where they gonna put the snipers?

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-08-25 22:10

    Or how about we enstatute Kevin, Terry, Jim, and Mary Alice? Turn the Capitol into the Woster Dome! It couldn’t get more South Dakotan than that!

  10. chris 2020-08-25 23:50

    Oh she’ll put trump’s ugly f*** up there in the new casting. Don’t think she won’t. This will be her own special way of sucking up as tribute. Might as well add Putin while the pot-metal is hot.

  11. Jenny 2020-08-26 01:36

    Don’t let Kristi ruin the Capitol dome, god that sure sounds gaudy. Kristi needs to focus on her job instead of outward appearances. She had her fun summer with Donny. Now she needs to settle down.

  12. Jenny 2020-08-26 01:44

    Looks like the Legislature needs to put a stop to her cheesy vision. The SD capital is fine the way it is. Who gives her the right to tear up the Dome?

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-08-26 05:20

    Buckobear, you’re on to something. Maybe Noem could commission multiple statues of herself, place them at the windows of the mansion, her Second Floor office, and other meeting rooms so people think she’s actually in Pierre working while she’s off kicking back with the horseys in Hamlin County or jetting around the country on her quiet White House campaign.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-08-26 05:21

    Jenny, thanks for mentioning the Legislature. We’re raising money and planning to spend it on capital improvements on state property. Doesn’t the Legislature have some say over such matters?

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-08-26 05:28

    Loren, Debbo, Chris—the Trump statue is coming. After Donald asked her about putting his face on a national monument that she doesn’t control, and after seeing how much he liked the big replica of Mount Rushmore with his face on it that she gave him for Independence Day (how easy it is to imagine Trump saying, “I grabbed her by the pussy, and she gave me five heads!”), her mind has likely been in overdrive trying to figure out how she could further fulfill Trump’s dreams and make a splash as the first Governor to enshrine Trump with a larger-than-life statute in a prominent public place. She’ll collect money from all of Trump’s out-of-state supporters who are following her on social media, then she’ll modify the plan, and we’ll have Trump on top of our Capitol.

    As your next Governor, I promise to tear any such Trump statue down and replace it with a unifying symbol of South Dakota’s true greatness… like a bronze sculpture of the Woster clan.

  16. John Tsitrian 2020-08-26 06:59

    Could there be a better way of creating a mailing list of potential donors for funding future political aspirations?

  17. David Newquist 2020-08-26 08:54

    When Noem served in the state legislature, fellow legislators remarked that she seemed possessed by trivial mindedness and petty malice. That is exactly what is expressed by trying to make the capitol dome into an inane redundancy of Mount Rushmore.

  18. Chris S. 2020-08-26 10:17

    Nothing like a good grift. Use the office of the governor to enrich yourself and your family while building your profile on teevee so you can run for President. It doesn’t matter if you win (actually, someone that lazy probably prefers not to win). The trick is to rake in campaign donations from the aroused, angry shut-ins at Fox News, then make a halfhearted run at the Presidency while doling out huge salaries to all your friends and family on your campaign staff. Beats working!

  19. W R Old Guy 2020-08-26 10:39

    I humbly suggest a much larger than life Trump statue made of candle wax with a wick and lighting rod protruding from the top of the head, be placed atop the Capitol. We can sit back and await a good old South Dakota thunderstorm lighting strike. There should be a live stream of the flickering flame and meltdown. It’s guaranteed to get national attention.

  20. Doug Wiken 2020-08-27 11:12

    More seriously, I propose a statesman pavilion of sorts between the capital and the lake. It could be something like two letter S stuck together in curves. Each curve would represent a century with life size statues of the Presidents on the east side and the SD governors, US senators and reps on the other side. Columns on each side. It could be left open or enclosed with glass. The space between the State and Federal sides could have information about all the statesman.

  21. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-08-27 12:16

    Not a bad design idea, Doug… but I still oppose Presidents there. Let’s keep it South Dakota-specific. I’m not even sure we need to enshrine Members of Congress there. Perhaps instead we should create a walkway of legislators. Honor the real part-timers who have come to the Capitol to serve.

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