Six Grandfathers

October 4, 1927

Before the Great Sioux War of 1876, the mountain we know today as Mount Rushmore had a wide variety of names. The Lakota Sioux knew the land as “Six Grandfathers.” The route was part of an annual spiritual journey for Sioux leader Black Elk as he headed for the top of Harney Peak. White settlers knew the mountain as Sugarloaf Mountain, Cougar Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and/or Keystone Cliffs. Charles Rushmore, an attorney from New York, visited area with a group of fellow prospectors in 1885; the group included David Swanzey, who was the brother-in-law of American author Laura Ingalls Wilder. The mountain was named (obviously) in honor of Rushmore, and is a part of the Black Hills of South Dakota where gold had first been discovered in 1874.
A decade prior to the discovery of gold, a treaty had been signed (Treaty of Fort Laramie, 1868) which gave the Black Hills to the Lakota Sioux. The treaty signed by the US government also gave hunting and fishing rights in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana, and guaranteed that the Powder River Country would be closed to all whites. The Black Hills War was a result of gold miners crossing into the reservation in pursuit of riches, a direct violation of the treaty, and the Sioux tribe attacking them, which also violated the agreed upon guidelines. By the end of the war, the US government decided that the treaty provisions were no longer valid, and whites took over the area once again.
A few decades later, the mining of gold, reclaiming of the land and renaming of the mountain led a man named Doane Robinson to dream up the vision of the carvings we see today. Robinson conceived the idea in order to improve the tourism industry in South Dakota, and he convinced a sculptor named Gutzon Borglum to visit the area and make sure the idea was plausible. Borglum agreed that the idea would work, though not in the exact location Robinson had chosen. Robinson liked a nearby area called The Needles, but Borglum determined the granite in The Needles was too weak and staked out the monument’s current location.
Another major change to Robinson’s original vision were the actual faces themselves. Robinson wanted the carvings to feature heroes from the West…Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill. Borglum saw it differently and secured federal funding for the project with four political figures featured in his plans. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln all gaze to the southeast, facing the sunshine as they solemnly look out over the nation from their granite monument.
The carving began on October 4, 1927 and continued through 1941, with the carving completed on October 31 of that year. Today, the park itself sees almost 3 million visitors annually, proving Robinson’s monument/tourism theory correct. The Lakota Sioux have spent a great deal of time in the Supreme Court over the past three decades, beginning with the United States v. the Sioux Nation of Indians in June, 1980. The monument is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been dedicated by President George H.W. Bush.
The people of South Dakota have been consistent with their dessert choice throughout the controversy. Ever since the years of Charles Rushmore and the prospectors, Kuchen has been served in kitchens throughout the state. It is known that there are as many different recipes for Kuchen as there are bakers of it. This recipe, however, has been handed down for generations and is as authentic (and delicious) as the history surrounding it.

South Dakota Kuchen

Crust:
1 package dry yeast
1/8 cup warm water
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4-5 cups flour
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a stainless steel pan, scald the milk by bringing to a boil and then reducing heat. The milk should have a film on top of it. Add sugar, salt, eggs and vegetable oil into the milk. Add milk mixture into the bowl of yeast and water and mix together. Mix in 4-5 cups of flour, enough to make a good dough. Let rise about one hour. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Roll each to about 1/4 inch thick and place in a greased pie pan so that the dough covers the bottom and comes about halfway up the side. Let dough rise in the pan for 15 minutes. Add a layer of thinly sliced apples, strawberries or other fruit if desired.

Filling:
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups cream
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons flour

On the stove, heat the milk and cream together. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour and eggs together. Add the milk and cream mixture to the sugar, flour and eggs and return it to the stove and cook until it thickens. Pour about 3/4 of a cup of the filling mixture into each crust.

Topping:
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup margarine

Mix the sugar, flour and margarine together so that it is somewhere between smooth and lumpy. Pour the topping on and bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. After the kuchen comes out of the oven, let it set for five minutes, then remove from the pan and let it cool.

recipe makes 8 kuchen

recipe from South Dakota Magazine, Jan/Feb 2004

 

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