Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

A new assignment for Mount Rushmore superintendent Baker

April 14, 2010, 1:07 pm

Gerard Baker, the charismatic, sometimes-controversial superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, has a new assignment.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis announced Monday that he has named Baker as his assistant director for American Indian Relations.

“The National Park Service faces important cultural and natural resource issues with First Americans,” Jarvis said. “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.”

A Mandan-Hidatsa from western North Dakota, Baker was the first Native American appointed superintendent of Mount Rushmore. He has been a park superintendent for 15 of his 30-plus years in the Park Service. He was assigned to Mount Rushmore in 2004 after serving as the first superintendent of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

“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 said.

The new position surprised many of the people who have worked with Baker since he took the helm at Mount Rushmore.

Gene Lebrun, president of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Society, a private nonprofit fundraising group for the memorial, said Baker has been traveling for the Park Service, but he was not aware of the new job until Monday. Although he wished Baker well, Lebrun hinted that Baker’s relationship with the society was not always smooth.

“Change is sometimes very difficult, and I think both parties had to work our way through that, and I think we did a good job,” Lebrun said, adding that it’s the same with every new superintendent.

“Congratulations to Gerard. I can’t think of anybody that’s more qualified for that position,” Lebrun said.

Baker brought an awareness of cultural diversity to Mount Rushmore and to tourism in the Black Hills in general, which benefited everyone, Lebrun said.

Baker’s commitment to sharing the Native American culture with others is evident in some of the changes he implemented at Mount Rushmore, including a Native American Heritage Village that is devoted to his culture and Native American’s place in history.