Catholic School Matters

October 26, 2020

Identity & Mt Rushmore

Earlier this summer, I became aware of a controversy surrounding Mount Rushmore as Native Americans formed blockades and demanded the mountain be returned as one of their sacred sites. They called for a destruction of the stone carvings which seemed outlandish. But in a summer where NASCAR and the state of Mississippi banned the Confederate battle flag and the Washington football team dropped its native mascot, perhaps not. I set out to learn more about how the Mount Rushmore controversy fit into the larger questions of appropriating identity which emerged this summer after the killing of George Floyd.

I’ve been a fan of Mount Rushmore my whole life. Below is a picture of the Uhl family posing in front of the monument in the 1970s. Three years ago, I took my version of the Uhl family to South Dakota for a vacation and we stopped for a tour. It’s an amazing monument. I’m aware of controversies surrounding native mascots at Catholic schools (see map here) and petitions surrounding native mascots. But I wasn’t aware that many Native Americans are offended by the desecration of their sacred mountains to create a monument to American presidents.

What does this have to do with Catholic schools, you ask? Well, Catholic schools operated boarding schools in reservations that suppressed Native identity and were sometimes sites of horrible abuses, for one, and many other Catholic schools also benefited from slave labor (or even owned slaves). So there is complicity to this awful history. And we need to make sure that we are attentive to the identity issues so that we can avoid making the same mistakes and perhaps making up for past misdeeds.

Mount Rushmore won’t be the last controversy. The sooner we can come to grips with how America has destroyed and appropriated identity and meaning at the expense of minority groups, the sooner we can begin to build a better country.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Catholic Schools


Teaching & Learning


Catholic School Matters podcast

Wednesday on the Catholic School Matters podcast marks the long-awaited arrival of George Couros to the podcast. I've been trying to get George on the podcast for years! The prolific, blogger, teacher, author, podcaster, and education influencer joins me for a wide-ranging conversation about education during the pandemic.

Check out the past episodes from this season:

What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. 101 Questions & Answers on Catholic Social Teaching, 2nd ed. (2013) by Kenneth R. Himes.
    2. Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (2020) by Anne Applebaum.
    3. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership (2009) by Ron Heifetz & Marty Linsky
    4. Friedman's Fables (1990) by Edwin H. Friedman
    5. I Want to See: What the Story of Blind Bartimaeus Teaches Us (2017) by Roc O'Connor, SJ

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Oct 19, 2020 "The Cleveland Partnership"

            Oct 5, 2020 "Governance Reform"

            Sep 28, 2020 "Autonomy & Radar"

            Sep 21, 2020 "Learning While Doing"

            Sep 14, 2020 "Connecting the Disconnected"

            Aug 31, 2020 "Racial Injustice"

            Aug 24, 2020 "Figuring it Out"

            Aug 17, 2020 Serenity Prayer

            May 24, 2020 Value Proposition During Uncertain Times

            For previous newsletters, click this link

            Orchestrating Conflict

            Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble site in print or e-book formats. The book explores issues in Catholic school leadership and the tensions between building community and following Church policies and introduces deliberate practice as a method for leadership formation. This is my first book and has been an ongoing project for the past couple of years.