Gerard Baker, whose tenure as superintendent at Mount Rushmore National Memorial has sometimes been marked by controversy, will be assistant director for American Indian Relations at the National Park Service.
“The National Park Service faces important cultural and natural resource issues with First Americans,” National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said in making yesterday’s announcement.
“I’ve asked Gerard to represent me and the National Park Service with tribes across our country to work on issues I believe will further the goals of the National Park Service and goals of First Americans.”
Baker, who is Mandan-Hidatsa from the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, Baker was the first Native American appointed superintendent of Mount Rushmore, the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal reports here. Throughout his time in the Park Service, he’s worked to include Native American perspectives.
“This is really a natural next step in my career, and it’s what I’ve been doing all my life: learning about people, our history and culture, talking to others and sharing stories and learning to appreciate other perspectives. It’s an opportunity we in the National Park Service can’t miss,” Baker says.
As the Journal reports, Baker went through a rocky patch recently in his 30-year career with the Park Service:
Baker drew fire from his critics last July when Greenpeace demonstrators scaled the monument to unfurl a protest banner. Baker stepped in front of cameras and microphones the next day to assure everyone that the monument’s security systems had worked as designed. A Park Service investigation revealed that parts of the security system were either inoperable or not functioning properly.
Retired South Dakota Highway Patrol officer Terry Mayes of Rapid City said he holds Baker personally responsible for the security breach. Mayes was on a committee that recommended security changes after an earlier demonstration at the memorial. The committee made suggestions that led to the spending of several million dollars for security improvements that were not operating properly last July, he said.
Baker had a stroke last year and took medical leave. He returned to work in Mount Rushmore in January.
Tags: American Indian Relations, buffalo post, Fort Berthold Reservation, Gerard Baker, Greenpeace, Gwen Florio, Mandan-Hidatsa, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, National Park Servce, Native American news